With a display that underlined the elements of authority, athleticism and technical elegance, China inflicted a 5-3 defeat on India to regain the trophy in the Asia Cup hockey championship for women here on Sunday. China had won the trophy last in 1989 at Hong Kong.
Power failure delayed the start by around 45 minutes leading to speculation whether the title match could be played at all.
There were even suggestions of allowing the team to share the trophy because the qualifiers for the World Cup had already been spotted. But there was no need to take such an unconventional decision as power returned and the match began amidst cheers from the crowd.
There was another delay forcing a late resumption after half-time owing to a heavy downpour.
China’s long wait has been bridged by the growing stature of the country in competitive hockey both globally and in the continent.
Peaking at the right moment and putting it across with a telling measure of pace, precision and persistence, China laid India low in almost every segment in the first half, but had to face a sustained spell of aggression during which India scored two more goals.
Unfazed by an early reverse, when Surinder Kaur converted a forward pass by Mamta Kharb, the Chinese came back with such force that the rival defenders were forced to chase shadows.
Song Ling commanded the mid-field, and was the chief creator who kept the frontline at its full potential. Her lovely pass to Fu Rong obtained the equaliser.
The confidence born out of the goal clearly mirrored in the patterns that China wove around the Indian defenders. Ma Yibo slammed in a scorcher of a penalty corner to help China gain the lead. Minutes later, Song provided another astute pass for Zhag Yu to enlarge the lead.
Notwithstanding the early lead, India failed to build up the tempo. While the mid-field struggled to contain the rival sallies, the attack clearly lacked the tenor and harmony to stress China’s defenders.
Streaks of aggression
When play resumed after a break of about 30 minutes, India showed streaks of aggression and three penalty corners, in a space of five minutes, signalled trouble for China.
Mamta Kharb shot from a goal-mouth scrimmage following a penalty corner. But even before the cheers died down, De Jiao Jiao tapped in a cross from Li Hong Xia, followed by Ma Yibo.
India surged back into contention despite a yellow card for Asunta Lakra. Dipika Thakur unleashed a terrific shot to hoist India’s third goal. For China, Ma Yibo got the yellow card.
Korea clinched the bronze medal in a thrilling match at 4-3 against Japan, the winner surfacing out of a superbly executed penalty corner from Soo Kyung Lee, three minutes before the final whistle. The teams shared six goals at half-time.
9-10: Chinese Taipei 2 (Pe-Ling Su, Chia Jung Chen) bt Thailand 1 (Kannika Lewwrungcroj).
3-4: Korea 4 (Hye Lyong Han, Soo Kyung Lee 2, Bomi Kim) bt Japan 3 ( Rica Komazawa, Mie Nakashima, Misaki Ozawa).
Final: China 5 (Fu Rong, Ma Yibo 2, Zhang Yu, De Jiao Jiao) bt India 3 (Surinder Kaur, Mamta Kharb, Dipika Thakur).
Final standings: 1. China, 2. India, 3. Korea, 4. Japan 5. Malaysia, 6. Kazakhstan, 7. Hong Kong, 8. Singapore, 9. Chinese Taipei, 10. Thailand, 11. Sri Lanka.