London: Asian champions India powered past lower-ranked Italy with an easy 3-0 victory in a playoff here on Tuesday to set-up a quarter-final against Ireland in the Women’s Hockey World Cup. World No 10 India produced a good all-round display and were helped by goals from Lalremsiami (ninth minute), Neha Goyal (45th) and Vandana Katariya (55th) at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.
India had to be alert against world No 17 Italy, who had defeated higher-ranked sides South Korea and China to qualify for the playoffs. Even though the European outfit conceded 12 goals against the Netherlands in their last game, both Italy and India were guarded against each other. It resulted with the match opening up with a slow tempo during the beginning moments of the first period.
But India created a glorious opportunity in the ninth minute as Navjot Kaur won the first penalty corner of the match. The resulting flick was taken by Gurjit Kaur and her fierce strike was deflected away by the first rusher. India took their long corner quickly, managing to exploit the space in the Italian striking circle, and young striker Lalremsiami benefitted from it as she produced a calm finish from the left side of the goal to give India the lead.
The early stages of the second quarter saw India’s captain Rani Rampal create a chance in the 17th minute as she ran by the left baseline, passing the ball inside which was eventually cleared by Italian goalkeeper Martina Chirico. The Italian goalkeeper was called into action again two minutes later as Udita found herself in the striking circle, clear of all Italian defenders, but Chirico got to the ball first to clear away the danger.
India seemed content to invite the Italians inside their half, and looked to attack them on the counter, hoping to catch their opponents off guard. On the other hand, Italy also had chances to go forward, but failed to deliver inside the striking circle, giving away free hits too often as India took their lead into the half-time break.
India could have gone 2-0 up in the 34th minute as Navneet Kaur found herself in possession with her back towards the goal. The young forward turned and deceived the Italian goalkeeper but just missed the target as she placed the ball wide of the goal-post.
India continued to surge forward and earned three penalty corners in this quarters. From the third penalty corner, Reena Khokhar’s flick deflected off an Italian defender and clumsily got trapped under the goalkeeper. The Indian attackers looked to put the ball into the back of net and it was Neha who got the final touch to extend India’s advantage.
Trailing 0-2, Italy showed some urgency in the fourth quarter. Drag-flicker Agata Wybieralska forced a good save from goalkeeper Savita. However, India upped the ante to kill off the game by earning two back-to-back penalty corners in the 54th and 55th minutes. In the second penalty corner, Gurjit Kaur’s fierce low flick towards the right side of goalkeeper was cleverly deflected in by Vandana to make it 3-0. Following the win, Sjoerd Marijne-coached india will take on Ireland on Thursday for a place in the semi-finals.