BHUBANESWAR, November 2: It didn’t start on expected lines. Down by two goals on aggregate, after losing the first game of the Olympic qualifiers 2-4 on Friday, Russia’s Alexey Sobolevskiy’s first-minute strike gave India the early jitters they so dreaded. But the next 59 minutes, Russia chased an unlikely upset that kept getting away from them. The icing on the cake for the Odisha crowd here at the Kalinga Stadium was local boy Amit Rohidas scoring the final goal in India’s 7-1 win.
India’s 11 goals against Russia’s three in the two-legged qualifier booked a Tokyo Olympics ticket for the hosts. This was on expected lines.
India remained anxious for 16 minutes after Russia scored, when Lalit Upadhyay, in the 17th, levelled the game. Akashdeep Singh then erased memories of a forgettable first game for him with two goals in the 23rd and 29th minute. India led 3-1 at halftime.
The third quarter didn’t produce any goals, as the Russian hopes kept afloat, even if ever so slightly. Nilakanta Sharma added the India decimated Russia 7-1 in their second Olympics qualifier to book their berth for 2020 Tokyo Games
With the emphatic win, India qualified for the Olympics for the 21st time, only missing out in 2008 Beijing Games India registered an aggregate 11-3 win in the two-legged Olympic Qualifier next nail to the coffin with his 47th-minute goal, and then drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh came to his own with two penaltycorner conversions in the 48th and 59th minute.
The success rate on penalty corners improved to 3/6 when Rohidas completed the last rites to flick in India’s seventh and final goal, which followed the sound of the hooter and loud shouts of hockey fans in the stands.
Rani Rampal takes India’s women hockey to its third Olympics
Skipper Rani Rampal’s 48th minute strike sealed Tokyo Olympics berth for the Indian women’s hockey team as they pipped USA 6-5 on aggregate despite losing 1-4 in the second leg of the FIH Qualifier in Bhubaneswar on Saturday. After thrashing USA 5-1 on Friday, it was expected to be a formality for the Indian women but they were given a real scare by the USA women, who raced to a 4-0 lead at the halfway mark. However the partisan fans went into raptures when Rani pulled one back to maintain the slender lead till final hooter. Indian women have now qualified for back-to-back Olympics having sealed it in Rio de Janeiro after a gap of 36 years. The women’s team first participated in the Quadrennial extavaganza in 1980 where the men’s team last won their gold medal. (Agencies)