New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) A solitary strike by Rani Rampal helped India beat Russia 1-0 in their last league game a qualify for the third round by finishing on top of the women's Hero Hockey World League Round 2 at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here Sunday.
It was a brilliant goal by Rani as she winked two defenders and sounded the board from a packed defence in the 51st minute. Rani was also adjudged as the player of the match.
It was one of the several attempts India made at breaching the Russian defence but found it rather hard.
Coming into the last day and after Japan had beaten Malaysia 4-0 to book their berth in the next round, India needed just a draw against Russia.
But the hosts had to work hard against Russia, who are ranked eight places behind them at World No.12. India, however, had to blame themselves for failing to make the best use of the spaces in the mid-field.
India did earn the penalty corners, but Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Rani and Anupa Barla also had their shots saved by the Russian defence. On one occasion, defender Olesya Petrova had to make a goal-line save from a melee.
Russia threatened in patches and also had their share of chances by winning a couple of corners late in the second half that showed their fighting spirit. But with 19 minutes left for the hooter, Rani sealed it in favour of the Indians.
Russia again close to spoiling India's party with Maria Nikitina's sliding shot but goalkeeper Yogita Bali did brilliantly to block it.
India, however, held on to their lead and moved to the next round. They were tied with Japan on 13 points each but took the title by virtue of having won mores games.
Rani emerged as the top-scorer with seven goals to her name while Jaspreet Kaur was given total cash prize of Rs.3 lakh for being the best player of the tournament.