Bhubaneswar | Jagran Sports Desk: Skipper Rani Rampal on Saturday helped India seal the Tokyo Olympics berth as they pipped the USA 6-5 on aggregate despite losing 1-4 in the second leg of the FIH Qualifier in Bhubaneswar.

The USA gave India a tough fight and raced to 4-0 lead at the halfway mark. However, Rani pulled one back to maintain the slender lead till final hooter. With this, 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.

The Indian women, on Saturday, looked a pale shadow of themselves as USA took full advantage of their complacency during the first two quarters. Amanda Magadan (5th, 28th minutes), skipper Kathleen Sharkey (14th) and Alyssa Parker (20th) scored for the visiting side.

The Americans came out with positive intent and made a lively start to the contest as they earned two penalty corners minutes into the match but failed to execute the chances on both occasions.

The USA women were determined to give a tough fight to the Indian team and thus continued their attack. In the 13th minute, they doubled their lead when skipper Sharkey pounced on a defensive error and punishing India's failure to clear their lines by firing into the bottom right corner.

In the fifth minute of the second quarter, they tripled their lead when Alyssa Parker fired high into the net after receiving a pass from Danielle Grega. However, the India secured back-to-back penalty corners but wasted both the opportunities.

Moments after India's Navneet Kaur was shown a yellow card, USA created a chance for Amanda Magadan, who made absolutely no mistake, smashing powerfully into the bottom left corner for her second goal of the game to wipe out the four goal deficit.

In the third quarter, India came out positively and secured a penalty corner but Gurjit Kaur's effort went wide of the post. The USA, however, defended in numbers and to keep the hosts at bay as the third quarter ended with the visitors leading 4-0 and the aggregate scoreline standing at 5-5.

In the 43rd minute of the game, India secured a penalty corner but Gurjit's flick once again failed to trouble USA goalkeeper Kelsey Bing. But Indian Skipper Rani Rampal, in the 48th minute of the game, took an inspirational strike from a loose ball to reduce the margin and hand India the vital lead.

The USA were awarded a penalty corner four minutes from full time but the decision was overturned after India went for the referral.

(With PTI inputs)

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma