India eves win Four-Nation Women's Hockey title

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New Delhi, Dec 5 (UNI) India justified their top billings as they beat Azerbaijan by a solitary goal to win the title of the first Lal Bahadur Shastri Four-Nation Women's Hockey tournament here today.

Saba Anjum scored the all important goal in the 52nd minute by deflecting a Mamta Kharab shot into Azerbaijan goal following a penalty corner.

The hosts, ranked 13th in the world, came up with an all round display to outwit their opponets ranked two places below them.

In their last league encounter yesterday, the two sides had drawn 1-1.

Indian defence, who let in a goal each in the first session in the earlier three matches, was upto the task today and the hosts had more goal scoring chances though both sides got equal number (three) of penalty corners in the match.

Azerbaijan started on a strong note and when the match was barely two-minute old, Mammedova Myung Soon's reverse stick deflection from Aliyeva Mi Kyong cross from the right just went wide.

But after the first 15 minutes, India settled down and, egged on by a large crowd, kept the rival defence busy.

India got one penalty corner in the first half to their opponents' two but both the sides went for the breather without any goal.

The second session was action-packed and it was the hosts who had most of the chances with Anjum and captain Mamta creating havoc in the rival defence several times with their stick work and sudden burst in both the flanks.

Anjum almost put India ahead two minutes after resumption but his push from near the top of circle hit the left post of the Azerbaijani goal.

Mamta earned a penalty corner -- India's second in the match -- in the 39th minute but Suman Bala angular hit failed to connect with Anjum's stick.

India, however, did not waste the third penalty corner in the 52nd minute earned by Mamta after a fine stick play near the top right of the circle. Mamta herself took the shot which Anjum deflected over the Azerbaijan goalkeeper Avdonima Yu Jin, who was just falling down to block the shot, into the net.

A minute later, Anjum's shot from inside the circle after a one-to-one with Mamta was blocked by Azerbaijan goalkeeper.

In the last 15 minutes, though, India were on the defensive and escaped unscathed largely due to some fine work by goalkeeper Dipika Murthy's who made two great saves.

First, in the 57th minute, she blocked a reverse stick shot by Mammedova Myung Soon and five minutes before final hooter palmed away a low deflection by Myung Soon by diving to her right just in front of goal.

Two minutes from time, Azerbaijan got their third penalty corner but muffed it to the huge relief of vociferous Indian supporters who turned out in large numbers on the final match graced by Madhya Pradesh Governor Balram Jhakar and Bollywood actor Diya Mirza.

Earlier in the day, Italy beat Malaysia 1-0 to finish third.

Obrist Julieta scored the only goal of the match in the 74th minute after both the sides failed to produce any goal in the regulation time.

UNI

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