On Friday, the Indian women’s hockey team’s quest for a berth in the Commonwealth Games final ended in heartbreak with powerhouse Australia defeating them 3-0 in the shootout in Birmingham.
The Savita Punia-led India team fought valiantly in the semifinal in the regulation time which ended in 1-1 but missed out on converting their attempts in the shootout. Ambrosia Malone, Amy Lawton and Kaitlin Nobbs scored goals for Australia in the shootout.
Rebecca Greiner (10th min) scored the solitary goal for Australia while Vandana Katariya (49th) was the lone scorer from the Indian side.
The Australian team started the game with the intent to put early pressure while the Indians kept their calm as they looked to create opportunities early on. Australia’s strategy paid off as they came close to scoring an early goal through a deflection but Savita made an outstanding save.
After an incident and injury scare in the middle of the field, Australia were awarded a free kick, but India successfully blocked it. Navneet Kaur won a penalty corner for India shortly after, but nothing came of it.
Following that, Australia stepped up the offensive, which was rewarded when Rebecca Greiner scored a tap-in goal in the 10th minute to give them the lead. Australia had another opportunity to double the lead, but Monika’s outstanding defence prevented it. In the final few minutes of the first quarter, India earned a free hit and a penalty corner, but it was not enough to level the contest.
Trailing by a goal, India began the second quarter on offence and were successful in piling pressure on the Australian defence on the right flank. Indian kept up its persistent push in search of an equaliser and came close to an equaliser after Neha won a penalty corner.
However, the Australian goalkeeper saved Gurjit Kaur’s on-point attempt. In the 24th minute, Sangita took a great shot at the goal post, but Aleisha Power saved it. With five minutes remaining, India won another PC, but nothing came of it. Thereafter, both teams battled for dominance in the mid-field as the second quarter came to a close.
Similar to the second quarter, India began the third quarter on top, with Salima Tete leading the charge. Vandana Katariya and Navneet Kaur also made some crucial runs and passes as India looked to rattle Australia’s defence.
As the game progressed, Australia came into the play with Shanea Tonkin making a piercing run inside the opposition circle but her shot went wide. However, this did not stop India from pushing for an equaliser.
India came within inches of scoring their first goal after a strong shot from Navneet Kaur, but Lalremsiami was slow to react to the pass. Australia won five consecutive PCs during the final minutes of the third quarter, but India did well to prevent them from scoring.
There was a sense of urgency among Indian players as the fourth quarter started, looking to level the contest. India’s efforts were rewarded when Vandana Katariya scored in the 49th minute after being set by Sushila Chanu.
Moments later, India had a chance to go one up after Vandana Katariya won a PC, but, it did not transpire into anything.
After India’s equaliser, both sides increased their attacking in search of their second goal but were not successful as the game went into shootout.
India will next take on New Zealand in the bronze-medal match on August 7.
(inputs from IANS)