Coming into the tournament as favourites, a wounded Indian women’s hockey team rose from a shock semi-final defeat to beat defending champion Japan 2-1 and claim the bronze medal at the Asian Games here on Saturday.
The Indians, ranked seventh in the world, were the favorites to win gold here, but a poor match cost them dearly when hosts China thrashed them 4-0 in the semi-final on Thursday.
The Indians thus avenged their 0-1 defeat against Japan in the last edition of the Jakarta Games in 2018.
But the team led by Savita Punia put the disappointment behind them and showed dominant hockey to clinch their seventh medal at the Asian Games and their fourth bronze.
Deepika gave India the lead in the fifth minute with a penalty before Japan equalized thanks to Yuri Nagai with a penalty corner in the 30th minute.
Sushila Chanu, a rare goalscorer, gave India the winning goal in the 50th minute from a set piece that went wrong.
India started brightly and went on the offensive from the start.
The Indians pressed hard and that resulted in their first goal in the fifth minute through a penalty, which was converted perfectly by Deepika.
India continued to press hard and got a penalty corner but failed to convert the opportunity. The Japanese also threatened the Indians, but the side led by Savita was up to the task.
It was a midfield fight between the two in the second quarter, with both sides getting a few entries into the circle but to no avail.
Japan tied at the stroke of halftime thanks to Nagai who converted a penalty corner.
After the change of lead, there was hardly anything to differentiate between both sides. Both India and Japan were locked in a midfield battle with occasional entries into each other’s circle.
After the change of sides, India continued to press hard and created some chances but failed to convert them.
With the deadlock still intact, the Indians pushed hard in the fourth and final quarters and their efforts paid off as they managed to earn some penalty corners.
India earned a penalty corner in the final quarter, but vice-captain Deep Grace Ekka’s shot was saved by Japan goalkeeper Eika Nakamura.
Vaisnavi Vitthal Phalke then missed a shot on the rebound from the ensuing penalty corner.
India continued to put constant pressure on the Japanese defense and secured three penalty penalties in a row, the last of which resulted in the winner.
Sushila, a rare goalscorer, was in the right place at the right time to lob the ball over the goalkeeper’s head after receiving a pass from Deep.
India then got a few more penalty corners but did not use them.
Just three minutes from the whistle, India earned another penalty corner, but Deepika’s shot was saved by the Japanese goalkeeper.