India set up title clash with Azerbaijan, Italy beat Malaysia 1-0

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New Delhi, Dec 4 (UNI) India rallied from behind for the third time in a row to hold Azerbaijan 1-1 in their last round robin league encounter and set up a title clash with the same opponents in the Four-nation Women's Hockey tournament here today.

Ritu Rani found the equaliser in the 61st minute after Aliyeva Mi Kyong had put Azerbaijan ahead from a penalty corner in the 15th minute.

Azerbaijan, who had already secured a berth in tomorrow's final before today's match, collected seven points from two wins and a draw. They had beaten Italy (4-2) and Malaysia (4-1) by convincing margins in their earlier matches.

India have five points to their kitty after today's draw.

They had started their campaign on an unconvincing manner with a 1-1 draw with Malaysia before beating Italy 2-1. In both the matches, they were trailing 0-1 at half time.

The hosts were the better side overall and missed a couple of chances and Azerbaijan goalkeeper Avdonima Yu Jin made at least three great saves.

Indian captain Mamta Kharab was in fine form and several times she worked in tandem with her seasoned team-mate Saba Anjum to creat havoc in the opposition defence. The Indian defence was also well-marshalled by Suman Bala, another senior player.

India were the more attacking side early on and got their first penalty corner in the fifth minute but Mamta's shot was saved by Azerbaijan goalkeeper.

The hosts were soon on the backfoot though and conceded the lead to Azerbaijan from a sloppiness in defence in the 15th minute. Aliyeva Mi Kyong's deflection from the penalty corner found the target.

India could have equalised three minutes later but for the brilliance of Azerbaijan goalkeeper Yu Jin who made a diving save of a Mamta free hit from the top left side of the circle for a corner.

Both sides won one more penalty corner each before the first half but failed to score from it and India went to the breather 0-1 down, the same they had done in the earlier two matches against Malaysia and Italy.

Mamta and her girls stepped on the gas after resumption and the Indian captain herself went upfront as attacking midfielder in search of goal.

Mamta got a golden chance to restore parity four minutes into the second half but somehow she could not blast home a Rosalind Ralte pass in front of Azerbaijan goal.

India missed another penalty corner in the 49th minute and nearly scored from their fourth penalty corner of the match in the 55th minute only to be denied by Azerbaijan goalkeeper Yu Jin who palmed away Mamta's powerful goal bound scoop for a corner.

The incessant attack by the Indians paid off and Suman Bala sent a beautifull pass to Saba Anjum free on the right top of box. Anjum ran down a few paces to her right and then sent a low cross towards the goalmouth and Ritu Rani connected it with a low shot past the goalkeeper into the board for the equaliser.

Two minutes later, India got another chance but an acrobatic Yu Jin deflected a Mamta shot for a corner.

In an inconsequential match later in the day, Italy beat Malaysia by a solitary goal.

The lone goal of the match was scored by Possali Danniela in the eighth minute.

With the win, Italy finished third with three ponits having lost their earlier two matches -- 2-4 to Azerbaijan and 1-2 to India.

Malaysia finished last with one point which they collected with the draw against India in their first match.

UNI

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