The Indian women’s hockey team lifted its maiden Asian Champions Trophy after Deepika Thakur struck in the final minute to give her team a thrilling 2-1 win over China in the final here on Saturday.
Deepika slotted the rebound in from a penalty corner in the 60th minute of the game to give her team a memorable victory.
Earlier, Deep Grace Ekka converted a penalty corner to take India into the lead in the 13th minute before China equalised in the 44th minute through a field goal from Zhong Mengling.
The welcome result for the Indian women’s team comes days after men beat Pakistan to reclaim the Asian Champions Trophy in Kuantan, Malaysia.
India’s best finish in the Women’s Asian Champions Trophy came in the last edition in 2013 when it finished runner-up to Japan. It had finished third in the inaugural edition in 2010.
Having learnt from their group stage encounter, India refused to let China take early control of the ball, closing them down high up the pitch, often intercepting their passes and constantly putting pressure by hunting in packs.
When in possession, the Indian eves held their nerve and passed the ball around neatly to penetrate China’s circle. This slightly different approach to their game compared to Friday helped them earn India s first penalty corner of the game in the 13th minute. An innovative set-piece saw Deep perfectly send the ball past the Chinese keeper for the early lead.
Going into the second quarter, India kept up the pressure by playing disciplined hockey, keeping their calm only to deny the Chinese a chance to equalise.
However, the third quarter saw China s Mengling Zhong penetrate the Indian circle to score a quick field goal. But the Indian eves were unrelenting and were playing the kind of hockey that had China on the backfoot.
China managed to earn their first penalty corner of the match in the third quarter but failed to convert, sending the ball way off the baseline. Though fortunes changed hands by the minute, neither team dropped the intensity going into the fourth quarter.
For India, it was Rani who was acting like a lynchpin, attempting to penetrate the Chinese D to earn a penalty corner and she found a chance with just minutes left before the final hooter went off.
It was a do-or-die situation for India and it was their best chance to score. Deepika, the highest goal scorer of the tournament took the onus on to herself to convert a sensational goal with just 30 seconds to go for the final hooter, sending the Indian supports into bursts of cheers.
For the team’s triumph, Hockey India on Saturday also announced a cash prize of Rs 2 lakh each for the players and chief coach Neil Hawgood.
Besides this, the federation also announced Rs 1 lakh for the other support staff of the team. A cash award for Rs 1 lakh was announced for Deepika, the highest Scorer of the tournament.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the Indian women’s hockey team for lifting its maiden Asian Champions Trophy title saying, “Congrats to our women’s hockey team for winning the Asian Champions Trophy 2016. It is a great moment for Indian hockey.”