Railways booked a berth in the quarterfinals by outclassing Andhra Pradesh 24-0 in a Pool A match of the National women's hockey championship at the Motilal Nehru School of Sports hockey complex here on Sunday.
It was also an occasion for Railways to fine-tune its game in a match situation before the knockout stage. The star-studded team did it with authority.
After facing initial resistance from the stubborn Andhra defenders, Railways tasted success first through Jasjeet Kaur's timely push from a goalmouth melee in the sixth minute. Thereafter, Railways' strikers went on a rampage.
They dictated terms through incessant attacks and scored goals at regular intervals to earn a huge 13-0 lead at the lemon break.
Right-winger and captain Saba Anjum was the chief architect of the Andhra demolition. The experienced forward not only scored five goals but also had a hand in several others. The good sign for the Railways was the fast-paced approach of its attackers and midfielders.
Railways experimented in the second session and replaced its number one goalkeeper Deepika Murty with Yogita. “Our intention was to give Yogita some match practice before the knockout matches,” said Saba.
Coach Sita Mehta wanted to preserve Rani Rampal's energy for future matches and the ace striker was withdrawn for a good part of the second half.
The focus was on direct conversion of penalty corners. Saba was the one who netted her team's first convincing goal off a short corner in the 40th minute.
Other than the captain, Soundarya (5, including a hat-trick), Rani Rampal (4), Chanchan Devi (4), Poonam (3), Jasjeet (2) and Subhadra Pradhan contributed in the goal feast.
“We are yet to get a tough match, but we will get that from the quarterfinals onwards. We have three days' break, we will practise to improve our penalty corner conversion rate and cut down on wayward shots,” said Saba.
Chandigarh started its journey with a 14-0 victory over Gujarat in Pool F. Its next match against Madhya Pradesh will be a virtual pre-quarterfinal since Madhya Pradesh has already defeated Gujarat.
The results: Pool A: Railways 24 (Saba Anjum 5, Soundarya (5, including a hat-trick), Rani Rampal 4, Chanchan Devi 4, Poonam 3, Jasjeet 2, Subhadra Pradhan 1) bt Andhra Pradesh 0.
Pool B: Bihar 15 (Priti 4, Babli 3, Nilima 3, Dolly 2, Manpreet, Vaishali and Guddi) bt Jammu and Kashmir 1 (Renu);
Pool C: Uttar Pradesh 2 (Kavita 2) bt Chhattisgarh 1 (Babita).
Pool E: Himachal Pradesh 11 (Sonia 3, Nisha 3, Monika 2, Ravita 2 and Baljinder) bt Bengal 0.
Pool F: Chandigarh Olympic Association 14 (Reena 4, Ritusha 3, Shivani 2, Sadhna, Neha, Usha, Monika and Nishi) bt Gujarat 0.
Keywords: National women's hockey championship