Captain Rani Rampal used all her experience leading from the front to script a thumping 5-1 first-leg Olympic qualifier victory over USA at Bhubaneshwar's Kalinga Stadium on Friday evening.The second and last leg of the qualifier will be held at the same venue on Saturday evening and India needs to either win, draw or lose with less than 4 goal difference to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics next year.
The crucial period of the match was when India pumped in 3 goals in just six minutes towards the end of the 2nd half and beginning of the third to take full control of the match. Earlier, the first quarter ended goalless with the Indian team keeping more possession but it was the USA that looked more dangerous and closer to scoring a goal. For India, Lilima Minz drew first blood against the run of play in the second quarter to take 1-0 lead in the match.Unlike in the past, Indian players changed their strategy and guess what it worked in their favour as they score and take go 1-0 up with just a minute left in the half-time hooter.
After the 2nd half, Shabila scores the second goal of the evening to double India's lead as she converted a move which began outside the box and lovely change of play provided the Indian player with ample time in front of the goal and she made most of it.India scored two more goals in the third quarter to triple their lead. One of them was a field goal while the other one was a result of a penalty-corner conversion. Indian skipper Rani Rampal used all her experience inside the enemy's box and won another penalty corner for her side and India triple their lead in no time. India was off to a flying start in the final quarter as they add one more to their tally on the counter-attack, making it 4-0. The US player committed foul inside the box and the referee has awarded a penalty stroke to India. The USA have take review but the TV umpire ruled in India's favour. Gurjit converts that penalty stroke to take India's lead to 5-0.The referee awarded the USA a penalty stroke and they converted it to reduce the gap by one goal.