| Poonam Rani celebrates her goal against Poland, on Tuesday |
New Delhi: India strengthened their chances of reaching the final of the womens section of the Olympic qualifiers when they defeated lowly Poland 3-0 at the Dhyan Chand Sports Complex, here, on Tuesday.
With Italy holding favourites South Africa to a surprise 1-1 draw earlier in the day, India now top the group with seven points from three outings.
South Africa, too, have seven points but they currently stand below India in goal difference. Top two teams will make the final and the winners will qualify for London Olympics.
Against a team that is ranked lowest in the tournament, India could not find their feet in the first half and struggled to hold on to the 14th minute lead given by Ritu Rani. However, the home side were much better in the second session.
Rani Rampal struck a minute after resumption when she weaved past a host of Poland defenders. It was a piece of brilliant effort from the Indian striker. Poonam Rani scored the third goal eight minutes before the hooter.
Though Poland have lost all their matches so far, they were not short of confidence. Time and again they threatened to breach the Indian defence and earned four penalty corners against two by the home team.
In the other matches of the day, favourites South Africa were held to a surprise 1-1 draw by Italy.
In the South Africa-Italy tie, the formers found themselves in arrears when Italy drew the first blood through Alessia Doriana Padalino, who converted a penalty corner in the fourth minute.
However, South Africa restored parity in the 40th minute when Lauren Penny made the most of an opportunity in front of the goalmouth.
Ukraine notched their first win of the tournament beating Canada 5-2 with goals from Maryna Khilko (3), Tetyana Salenko and Bohdana Sadova. Kate Gillis and Maddie Secco struck for the losers.