London, July 26 (IANS) Ireland sealed their place in the women’s hockey World Cup quarter-finals with a game to spare after edging past higher-ranked India 1-0 in their second Pool B match at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre here on Thursday.
For World No.16 Ireland, Anna O’Flanagan’s goal in the opening quarter was enough for them to outwit World No.10 India.
India, who drew 1-1 with England in their campaign opener, now face a daunting task of beating the US by a heavy margin on Sunday, if they are to reach the knock-outs.
The Indian team started the match well as they attacked the Irish team through the right flank, creating a couple of chances.
The World No. 10 team won their first penalty corner of the competition in the fourth minute through skipper Rani Rampal as she was stopped in her path by an Irish defender.
However, the resulting drag-flick by Gurjit Kaur was deflected away by the first Irish rusher. Ireland started to maintain possession towards the latter stages of the first quarter and won themselves their first penalty corner in the 12th minute as India’s Deep Grace Ekka blocked an Irish forward in her tracks.
The resulting drag-flick by Deirdre Duke was deflected towards the left of Indian goalkeeper Savita by Anna O’Flanagan to give the Irish the lead.
Moments later, India were awarded their second penalty corner in the 14th minute; but Gurjit’s drag-flick was again stopped by the first Irish rusher as the World No. 16 team took their lead into the break.<br> <br>The second quarter saw the Ireland side attack their opponents again, winning back-to-back penalty corners in the 19th minute.
Indian goalkeeper Savita made a fine save on the second occasion after the first of the two drag-flicks was blocked by an Indian defender.
It was a difficult period for the Indian team as the Irish defenders seemed happy to sit back with possession and wait to play long-balls towards their attackers. However, in the 25th minute, the Indian team were awarded their third penalty corner after Captain Rani created space for herself in the striking circle, getting her shot away which came off an Irish foot.
Gurjit Kaur’s drag-flick was deflected away for a long corner by Irish defender Hannah Matthews on the line.
India had another opportunity in the next minute, but Namita Toppo’s shot from the left flank was parried away by Irish goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran.
The Indian team started to create more opportunities, but could not find an equaliser as Ireland took their one-goal advantage into the half-time break.<br> <br>In the 34th minute, Vandana Katariya had a glorious opportunity to shoot off the reverse, but Ireland’s Watkins made an important tackle to clear the threat away.
The next minute saw Ireland’s O’Flanagan make a darting run from the right flank but Savita’s interception made sure that the Irish did not have a shot.
India won their fourth penalty corner in the 38th minute, but Ireland’s McFerran made a diving save on her right to deny the Indian defender Gurjit.
India’s constant attacking saw them win another penalty corner in the next minute as the Irish Goalkeeper kicked the ball too high, but Gurjit’s dragflick was adjudged to be dangerous as it hit the thigh of the first rusher.
In the 44th minute, the Indian team were awarded their sixth PC of the match, but to Captain Rani’s disappointment, her drag-flick was kept out by the Irish defence.<br> <br>It was a crucial fourth and last quarter from India’s perspective as they desperately required to convert their chances to stay in the competition.
The starting few minutes saw India try to create opportunities, but the Irish defence led by Shirley McCay held firm to deny the Indians.
In the 54th minute, Ireland had a chance to extend their lead through Nicola Evans, who found herself clear of the Indian defenders but failed to get her shot on target.
On the other end of the pitch, India won their seventh penalty corner in the 55th minute, but Ireland’s defence made sure that their opponents could not trouble their goalkeeper.
The 57th minute saw Rani wriggle away from the Irish defender to find herself free in the striking circle, but her shot was saved by Irish Goalkeeper McFerran to keep Ireland’s lead intact.
The final few minutes of the match were managed well by the Irish team as they registered their place into the knockout stages of the competition while India will have their task cut-out in their last Pool B match against the US.