Gold Coast: The Indian Women’s Hockey Team maintained their hopes of qualifying for the Semi-Final of the Gold Coast 2018 XXI Commonwealth Games as they produced an emphatic 2-1 victory over World No. 2 England in Pool A.
It was an impressive performance from the Indian team as they came from a goal behind to snatch a much needed victory after England who had taken the lead in the 1st minute of the match through their skipper Alexandra Danson. A strong third and fourth quarter performance from India saw Navneet Kaur (42') and Gurjit Kaur (48') getting their names on the score-sheet to help their team secure the victory which puts them in a strong position to qualify for the next round with a tally of six points and a pool match to play against South Africa on 10 April 2018.
It was a tough start for the Indian team as they conceded an early goal in the match as a good team-move from England saw their Captain Alexandra Danson score a goal after just 35 seconds. The 2014 Commonwealth Games Silver Medalists caused India a few problems in the initial five minutes of the match, but Savita made sure that Danson's second shot in the 4th minute was saved. India also got into the rhythm of the game as Namita Toppo and Lalremsiami both attempted shots at the English goal but the former shot wide while the latter's shot was saved by England's goalkeeper Madeleine Hinch. India were also unable to utilize a Penalty Corner which they were awarded in the 8th minute as the team failed to attempt a shot on goal.
In the second quarter, England put pressure on the World No. 10 side as they won themselves an early Penalty Corner, however the drag-flick was shot wide by Giselle Ansley. Another shot on goal in the 19th minute by Hannah Martin required a good save from Indian goalkeeper Savita while Elena Rayer couldn't find the target in the 21st minute. The Indian team were under constant pressure throughout the second quarter as England won three successive Penalty Corners. However, Grace Balsdon's attempts at the Indian goal were saved well by Savita to keep India in the match.
It was crucial for India to make a strong comeback after half time and it looked like Chief Coach Harendra Singh's words at the half-time break helped the team in regaining their lost confidence. Just 38 seconds into the third quarter, India's Vandana Katariya had a glorious chance to equalize the scored but her shot was saved by England Goalkeeper Hinch. Minutes later, England won themselves a Penalty Corner but the resulting shot from Giselle Ansley was saved by Savita's heroics. In the 38th minute, it was skipper Rani's turn to take a Penalty Corner, however the Indian ace forward could not keep her shot on target. India kept threatening by creating opportunities as they pressed their opposition high up the pitch, and were quick to regain possession which was rightly rewarded in the 42nd minute when Vandana Katariya's pass to Navneet Kaur was slotted home by the latter to score the equalizer for India. It was an important goal in the match for India as they were dominating the game.
The Indian team maintained their upper hand in the final quarter as well, as India regained possession quickly. In the 48th minute, Rani made a darting run but her shot from inside the circle was impeded by an English defender which resulted in the referee awarding India a Penalty Stroke. 22-year-old Gurjit Kaur was given the responsibility of giving India the lead and she kept her calm to strike past Hinch's left side to score from the spot. With just 12 minutes left on the clock, India had to make sure that they did not let the English attacking line find too much space inside the striking circle. Even though England attempted four shots on goal in the next five minutes, Savita and the defensive line for India made sure that they minimized the chances of giving away any easy Penalty Corners to their opposition. For England, Giselle Ansley failed to convert a Penalty Corner again in the 56th minute which turned out to be the last effort as India closed the game down with Monika having a shot on goal in the 59th minute but failing to find the target.
Chief Coach Harendra Singh was pleased with his team's performance, he said, "It was a tough match today against a very strong side, but the girls produced a strong performance. This victory is special as we won against players who have won the Gold medal at the Olympics. I am sure it will give our team more confidence going into the next match as we have won two consecutive matches now after having faced a set-back against Wales in the opening match."
Accessing his team's performance in the first three matches of the CWG 2018, Singh said, "We had a tough start to our campaign against Wales but we have to give the credit to the girls that they have come out strongly to win two matches on the bounce. It takes character and a good mindset to be able to make a comeback from such a situation, and this is something we are trying to build within the team."
"We have improved in every match as a team which is great to see as a Coach. But now we will be taking our next match against South Africa as a Quarter-Final as whichever team wins, will go through to the Semi-Final. However, we need to keep our focus and perform like we did today, to make sure we can go past a good South African side," said Singh on his team's next Pool A match.
The Indian Women's Hockey team will take on South Africa in their fourth Pool A match on 10 April, 2018 at 1500hrs IST.