New Delhi, 6 October: India's hope of a gold medal and a direct Olympic qualification went up in smoke as they lost 0-4 to China in their Asian Games women’s hockey semi-final match at the Gongshu Canal Sports Park Stadium in Hangzhou on Thursday.

The nippy Chinese scored goals through Zhong Jiaqi (25’), Zou Meirong (40’), Liang Meiyu (55’), and Gu Bingfeng (60’) to raise their expectation of gold and straight qualification to the Olympics.

Chinese played very fast-paced games and the Indian girls could not match them either in stamina or aggression.

With the home crowd behind them, it was the hosts who went on the offensive in the opening quarter. China won three penalty corners in the period but some brave defending from the rushers and a good save from goalkeeper-captain Savita Punia kept the scoreline level.

India’s only notable offensive move of the opening quarter came through Salima Tete, who ran down the right flank to put in a cross but the Chinese defence cleared the danger.

The continuous pressure by the hosts finally yielded results in the second quarter. Zhong Jiaqi’s deflected drag flick wrong-footed Savita and rippled the Indian net(1-0).

Rattled by the goal, the Indians tried for an equalizer but lacked the precision and poise as th first half ended with China leading 1-0.

The Janneke Schopman-coached India looked marginally better after the restart and pressed high in search of an equaliser. The hosts, though, looked comfortable enough defending deep and looking for counter-attacking opportunities. China extended their lead towards the end of the third quarter through a Zou Meirong penalty corner.

Down two goals, India desperately started to attack and won back-to-back penalty corners. One even ended up in the back of the net but the goal was disallowed due to dangerous play.

India came out all guns blazing in the final quarter and won a flurry of penalty corners but the Chinese defence stayed organized to avert any dangers.

With India pushing forward, China exploited the space left behind to score a third and found their third of the match through Liang Meiyu’s field goal. The third goal killed off the contest but China added one more to their tally with Gu Bingfeng converting a penalty corner with the final shot of the match.

Winners of the Asian Games men’s and women’s hockey tournaments will secure a quota to next year’s Summer Games.

Having missed the Olympic berth in Hangzhou, India will now need to rely on the FIH Olympic qualifying tournaments, to be hosted next year, to secure a spot at Paris 2024.

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