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Rani's last-gasp goal seals India Tokyo ticket despite losing 1-4 to US

Rani
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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...

Bhubaneswar : 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 here 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.

On Saturday, Indian women 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.

Pushed to the wall after being forced to recover from a four goal deficit following the 1-5 defeat in the first-leg on Friday, the American girls meant business from the onset as they not only dominated the proceedings in the first quarter, but also pumped in two goals to stun the home team.

The Indians played catch-up hockey and found it difficult to counter USA's persistent attacks from the onset. It was a completely different scenario from Friday's match as the Indians were found wanting, struggling to get the control of the ball.

USA 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.

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