Railways and Haryana set up a title clash after recording convincing wins in the semifinals of the National women's hockey championship at the Motilal Nehru School of Sports hockey complex here on Saturday.
Railways outsmarted Punjab 9-0, while Haryana overcame a stubborn Orissa for a 3-0 victory. The final, preceded by the third-place play-off between the losing semifinalists, will be played on Sunday.
It was another authoritative performance by Railways even as it was not in full flow. Punjab, overawed by its rival, gave enough gaps to the opposition strikers to move around freely who took a 3-0 lead within the first 15 minutes. Chanchan Devi (2nd minute) tapped in to open the account, while Jasjeet Kaur (7th) and Saba Anjum (12th) shot home from penalty corners.
Rani Rampal (25th) made the most of a beautiful through pass from Saba, while Joydeep Kaur (31st) fired in off a short corner to help Railways be 5-0 up at the break.
Punjab slightly improved its movement and clearance in the second session. However, that was not enough to stop Railways from inflating its margin of victory. Jasjeet (45th), Joydeep (53rd) and Rani (63rd) achieved a brace each and Poonam (68th) struck once to inflict a humiliating defeat on Punab.
Haryana found it difficult to get the better of a gritty Orissa. In comparison to its performance in the last eight, the home team came up with an improved show with better understanding between its half-line and forward-line. It dominated in ball possession and scripted some fine moves.
However, the host struggled to taste success as Orissa, adopting the same strategy which had brought it success against Jharkhand, posted a majority of its players inside its 25-yard line and made all possible efforts to deny Haryana a goal.
The moment of joy finally came for the home camp when Meenakshi slotted in following a crafty variation off a penalty corner in the 57th minute. That recharged the sagging spirit of the Haryana players who mounted pressure to pump in two more goals in the closing stages. Surinder Kaur (60th) deflected in from a short corner and Jaspreet (68th) converted a penalty stroke to complete the tally.
Orissa made a couple of fine attempts. On one occasion, Anupa's spectacular diving reverse hit was palmed away by the opposition custodian, while a deflection from a penalty corner hit the upright. The team badly missed the services of its injured right-winger Surabhi.
Haryana coach Pritam Siwach was not satisfied. . “Once again we did not play according to our plan. We could have won by a bigger margin,” she said.
Pritam was particularly unhappy about her side's poor penalty corner conversion (just two off 11), which could let the host down against a formidable opponent like Railways.
Meanwhile, one of Haryana's experienced campaigners and captain Mamta Kharab injured her upper eyelid in the 20th minute of the match and was likely to miss Sunday's final.
Keywords: National women's hockey