Olympics: Indian women’s hockey team lose to Britain 1-4

Tokyo: The Indian women’s hockey team went down fighting 1-4 in their Pool A match against defending champions Great Britain, and with only two game remaining, — against Ireland and South Africa on July 30 and 31 respectively — qualification for the knockouts is getting tougher for the Rani Rampal-led side.

India now have to win both their games to qualify for the quarterfinals here.

India’s lone goal on Wednesday came from the stick of Sharmila Devi in the 23rd minute. India have lost all three Pool A matches so far. India were thrashed by the Netherlands 1-5, before they came up with a much-improved show against Germany, losing 0-2, and on Wednesday, they lost to Great Britain by another big margin.

World No. 5 Great Britain made a quick start and got the opening goal 75 seconds into the match. After an attacking move down the right flank, Great Britain managed to shoot at India’s goal, which was superbly saved by goalkeeper Savita. However, Great Britain midfielder Hannah Martin was on hand to capitalise on the deflected shot and scored the opening goal of the match.

Great Britain dominated the early proceedings, as India gradually grew into the game. India managed to earn two penalty corners late in the first quarter but drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur’s efforts were blocked. Great Britain ended the first quarter with 71 per cent ball possession and a 1-0 lead.

As the second quarter began, India looked to force a higher tempo and played more aggressive hockey from the outset. However, they suffered a setback in the 19th minute as Hannah scored her second goal to double Great Britain’s lead.

Though goalkeeper Savita made a valiant effort to save the initial shot from Sarah Jones, midfielder Hannah gathered the rebound and expertly manoeuvred the ball to score with a backhand stroke.

Despite the setback, India continued to play aggressive hockey and increasingly kept more possession of the ball. India got their reward in the 23rd minute when they were awarded a penalty corner. Young forward Sharmila Devi’s quick-fire deflection off Gurjit Kaur’s drag-flick ensured India their only goal.

The following minutes saw India play with more confidence and dominated the final seven minutes of the half. The first half ended with six circle penetrations from India, compared to Great Britain’s seven.

The third quarter began with India earning a flurry of penalty corners soon after the restart. Deep Grace Ekka was on drag-flicking duty this time, but India could not score from their three attempts. It was Great Britain’s turn to receive a penalty corner in the 32nd minute, who improvised from a fumble to get a shot on target, which was saved by Savita. Savita made three more brilliant saves from penalty corners to keep India in the game.

Great Britain scored a third goal in the 41st minute through experienced forward Lily Owsley to go 3-1 up.

India began the fourth quarter with attacking intent, lining up four forwards after the restart. They were almost rewarded in the 48th minute when captain Rani Rampal combined with forward Vandana Katariya to create a scoring opportunity.

Vandana’s backhand stroke drew an impressive save from goalkeeper Claire Hinch. With mounting pressure, India’s infringement while defending in their circle, gave away a penalty stroke that saw Great Britain extend their lead in the 57th minute.

Grace Balsdon converted the penalty stroke that saw Great Britain march to a 4 -1 victory.

In their fourth Pool A match, India will take on Ireland on July 30.


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