India rally to beat Italy 2-1 in 4-nation hockey

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New Delhi, Dec 2: India scored twice in five minutes to fashion a remarkable come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Italy in their second round-robin league match in the four-nation hockey tournament here today.

Saba Anjum (48th) and Suman Bala (53rd) found the target from the penalty corner for the hosts after Quaranta Valentina had put Italy ahead in the 29th minute.

With today's win, India have collected four points from two matches and need just a draw tomorrow against Azerbaijan to make it to the final while Italy are out of the tournament with two losses.

The hosts had played out a 1-1 draw with Malaysia in their first match yesterday.

Azerbaijan, who beat Malaysia 4-1 in the first match of the day, also qualified for the final with six points from two matches. They had beaten Italy 4-2 yesterday.

Malaysia will have to beat Italy tomorrow and wait for the India-Azerbaijan match to have any chance of making it to the final.

India, ranked 13th in the world and 11 places above their opponents, looked sharper in the beginning by making a couple of goal-bound moves but after the first 10 minutes Italy started taking control of the match.

The physically fitter Italians denied the hosts ball possession with one-touched fast-paced hockey and play remained mostly in the Indian half in the last 25 minutes of first half. Faustini Francesca and Possali Daniela especially combined well to create problems in the Indian goal on a number of occasions.

On the other hand, the Indians seemed like playing without any purpose with misspasses galore and failing to trap the ball properly. The Indian half line failed to supply the upfront and forward Saba Anjum rarely touched the ball.

Following relentless attack and after wasting a penalty corner in the 11th minute, Italy surged ahead from their second penalty corner and Quaranta Valentina scored with a neat deflection off Canavosio Matilde.

Down 0-1 at the breather and their opponents doing all the attack in the first half, it seemed the hosts would concede more goals in the second session to make themselves difficult for a final berth.

UNI

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