A spirited performance from the Indian women’s hockey team saw them defeat Italy 5-4 on penalties in the first match of the 5th-8th position playoffs. After the game ended on 1-1 at full time, the outcome was decided through a penalty shootout. Indian goalkeeper Savita Punia put up a brilliant show under the goal post and the forwards also complemented her with successful conversions. Earlier, it was Rani Rampal who cancelled out Elisabetta Pacella’s opening goal to push the game into the shootout.
First half: Pacella puts Italy ahead, Indian forwards struggle to find momentum
Italy (16), ranked three places below India, were not easy customers as they had beaten the Indian eves 2-1 in the warm-up matches. They got off to yet another strong start and found an early goal in the 9th minute through Elisabetta Pacella. The Italian forward responded well to Dalia Mirabella, who made a clever pass by sending the ball well ahead of the Indian defenders. Pacella then managed to get the ball past Savita Punia and handed Italy an early lead.
The Indian eves managed to win the ball in the midfield but struggled to combine well in the final third and as a result a few vital chances went abegging. The first half ended with Italy taking a slender but an important lead.
Second half: Rani equalizes, Indian forwards miss easy chances
With just 3 minutes since the commencement of the second half, Indian forward Rani Rampal found the equalizer. A slight fumble from Chiara Tiddi helped Rani dribble past her and equalize. India then stepped up their game and seemed like a rejuvenated unit as they began to attack more fiercely. Vandana Katariya came close to putting her team into the lead but her shot was blocked by Italian keeper Martina Chirico.
With few minutes left for regulation time to end, India had a chance to snatch victory but Navjot Kaur failed to divert an incoming cross in time. India were 1-1 at full time and the game headed into the shootouts.
Penalties: Savita Punia saves the day for India
Valentina Braconi scored the first penalty for Italy and Navjot Kaur drew level soon after. Savita Punia then denied Dalila Mirabella’s effort before Vandana Katariya missed hers. The rest of the penalties were successfully converted and the score was tied at 4-4 with the outcome of the match to be decided through sudden death. Rani Rampal dribbled the ball away from the Italian goalkeeper and scooped it over her head to put India into the lead. Giuliana Ruggieri was the penalty taker for Italy and she was denied by Savita Punia, who anticipated her opponent’s movements and made a brave tackle to take the player down. India were declared winners and the entire team huddled around Savita Punia, who saved the match for her team. India will now play Japan on July 4 and the winner will take the 5th position. Crucially, the fifth place team will have a chance of Olympic qualification if teams that have finished in the top four also win their respective Continental Championships.
Italy 1 (Elisabetta Pacella 9′) vs India 1 (Rani Rampal 33′)
India win 5-4 on penalties