It finally came down to a penalty stroke and the scoreline read 2-1 in favour of China as the Indian women’s hockey team began the second leg of its FIH Pro League matches at the Birsa Munda Stadium here with yet another loss on Monday.
But it wasn’t as close a game as the result would suggest. Possession to India, control and game to China—that was the story of the night as the host, after an initial 10-minute period of intense pace and intent gradually slipped behind as China dictated the direction for large parts of the game.
Starting quickly and with purpose, India had the upper hand early on and kept the pressure on the Chinese defence with repeated circle entries, one of them seeing Vandana Katariya’s backhand pass from close to the backline being deflected in by Sangita Kumari for the lead.
Chine got one of its own towards the end of the first quarter through veteran Bingfeng Gu’s penalty corner. But once the teams settled down, China’s defensive structure held firm against all Indian attempts that slowly went from purposeful to off target to desperate.
India had the ball for long periods without actually appearing threatening, running all around without being able to get into the circle post break. The Chinese appeared content going for the counters and then falling back into their respective zones to cut off space and induce turnovers but barring a few half chances, they didn’t have much to show either. It was one of those games where both teams relied more of mistakes from the opponent.
The Indian defence, after being effective for long, finally slipped in the 53rd minute when the ball hit Monika on the goalline off China’s fourth Penalty Corner (PC), conceding a penalty stroke and Bingfeng had no difficulty putting it past Savita Punia. India had a PC two minutes later but was unable to convert, remaining an area of concern for the team.
The Dutch juggernaut, meanwhile, continued to roll on with the World No. 1 side registering a 4-0 win against USA, scoring twice on either side of half time and finding ways to get the goals despite the Americans negating their PC advantage.
Netherlands 4 (Fay van der Elst 21’ 56’, Freeke Moes 16’, Felice Albers 36’) bt USA 0; China 2 (Bingfeng Gu 14’ 53’) bt India 1 (Sangita Kumari 7’).