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Home / Sports / Tokyo Olympics: India women beat Australia 1-0, reach semi-final for the first time ever

Tokyo Olympics: India women beat Australia 1-0, reach semi-final for the first time ever

Drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur rises to the occasion, converts India's lone penalty corner, custodian Savita saves the day; 'Chak De! India' trends on twitter
The India women's hockey team celebrates win over Australia.

Our Bureau   |   Published 02.08.21, 10:06 AM

The time read 9.58 AM. The Indian Women's Hockey team were defending their eighth penalty corner against Australia in the quarter-finals of the Olympics. The whole nation was glued to television screens as goalkeeper Savita Punia dived to the ground to pull off another terrific save. Three minutes later, the final hooter blew, signalling the end of a historic match.

The country was elated with joy, with celebrities and everyone else congratulating the team on their achievement, with many likening the feat to the 2007 Shimit Amin-directed film, "Chak De! India", starring Shah Rukh Khan as coach Kabir Khan who steers the women's team to victory against Australia in the finals of the World Cup.

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Following Monday's real victory against Australia, hashtags of 'Kabir Khan' and 'Chak De! India' started trending on the microblogging site Twitter. Shah Rukh joined the party with a delightful tweet, asking the women's team to bring home 'some gold'.

The filmstar was reacting to a tweet by team India coach Sjoerd Marijne who was apologising to his family for delaying his return home.

"Sorry family. I coming again later. (sic)", he tweeted.

To which Shah Rukh Khan replied and cited the festival of Dhanteras, which coincidentally falls on the actor's birthday this year. "Haan haan no problem. Just bring some Gold on your way back .for a billion family members. This time Dhanteras is also on 2nd Nov. From: Ex-coach Kabir Khan," the Bollywood star wrote.
 

Soon, Marijne replied with tweet. "Thank you for all the support and love. We will give everything again. From: The Real Coach," he wrote alongside a photo with the team after winning the match.

Coming into the match, the odds were totally against India as World No.2 Australia, a mighty unbeaten opponent, awaited them. But the Indians, determined to prove a point, produced a strong and brave performance to eke out the narrow win over the Hockeyroos.

How much it meant for the team and Indian hockey in general could be gauged from the emotions that were on display after the final hooter went off. The players screamed, hugged each other, and got into a huddle with their Dutch coach Sjoerd Marijne with tears of joy rolling down their faces.

Drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur rose to the occasion when it mattered and converted India's lone penalty corner in the 22nd minute to surprise the Australians. India's best performance in the Olympics came way back in the 1980 Moscow Games where they finished fourth out of six teams. In that edition of the Games, women's hockey made its debut in the Olympics and the sport was played in a round-robin format with top two teams qualifying for the final. The Rani Rampal-led side will play Argentina in the semifinal on Wednesday. The Indians started slow off the blocks but grew in confidence as the match progressed.

Australia had the first shot at the goal but India goalkeeper Savita did just enough to deny Amrosia Malone, whose slap shot from inside the circle hit the post.

The Indians thereafter adopted an aggressive approach and caught the Australian defence off guard quite a few times India's pace and determination seemed to have surprised the Australians as they panicked while defending and were lucky not to have conceded a goal in the first quarter.

In the ninth minute, skipper Rani Rampal's deflection from a Vandana Katariya shot hit the back post as Australia survived.

A minute later, Broke Peris' shot from top of the circle just went wide past a fully stretched Savita.

The Indians created another chance in the first quarter but an alert Australian goalkeeper Rachael Lynch came out of her line to deny Sharmila Devi from a one-on-one situation.

The Australians pressed hard in the second quarter and secured their first penalty corner in the 20th minute which was defended brilliantly by India.

Minutes later, India secured their first penalty corner and Gurjit, who had a disappointing outing so far in the tournament, rose to the occasion and converted the chance with a low flick to stun the Australians.

The Indians were bold and courageous while defending as minutes later, Deep Grace Ekka got a vital stick to keep out Emily Chalker's strong hit from close range.

Down by a goal, the Australians attacked with numbers after the change of ends and Mariah Williams came close to restoring parity but Savita came in between.

Australia secured three back-back-to-back penalty corners soon but the Indian defence, led by Savita and Deep Grace Ekka, stood like a rock in front of the goal.

Thereafter, the play was mostly inside the Indian circle as Australia pressed hard but the Indians managed to soak up the pressure with some brave defending, not afraid to put their bodies on line.

In the final eight minutes of the game, the pressure was relentless on the Indians as Australia secured four more penalty corners but failed to breach the willpower of the Indian defence.

(With PTI inputs)



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