Ranchi: India made a disastrous start in their campaign in the women’s FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers as they went down 0-1 to the United States on the opening night, failing to capitalise on a dozen or so chances.
In a high-intensity clash, Abigail Tamer scored the all-important goal for the United States after a goalless first quarter as the hosts dominated possession, had 9 shots on target as compared to five by the US, made 13 circle entries to five by their opponents and bagged six penalty corners to three by the Americans. But in the end, all that proved futile as the hosts were thwarted by strong defending by the tall and sturdy American players.
This defeat could prove a disaster for India, who are hoping to make it to their third successive Olympic Games. It has opened up Pool B as New Zealand had started the event with a 3-0 win over Italy. Winning their opening matches, New Zealand and the USA look favourites to go through to the semis unless the Indians cause an upset win against the Black Sticks, whom they have never defeated in regulation time on Sunday.
The Indian team took time to settle down which allowed the US team to dominate the six of the first seven minutes of the match. Team USA made a couple of circle entries, and the Indian defence well led by Monika in the absence of Deep Grace Ekka, held its own.
The Indian player were totally error-prone and made huge mistakes with miss passes, faulty trapping and none of them could bring their A-game to the field on Saturday.
Though India fought their feet and made some attacks, they could not get into the circle. A missed pass in the midfield gave the US a chance and they launched a super attack with skipper Amanda Colini put it past goalkeeper Savita, American forward Elizabeth Yeager was pulled up for obstruction and the goal was disallowed.
That attack seemed to have jolted the Indians into action and they launched three good attacks through Jyoti, Deepika, Baljit and Navneet but could not capitalise on the opportunities and the two teams ended locked goalless at the end of the first quarter.
Team USA scored seconds into the second quarter when Abigail Tamer capitalised on a defensive lapse after Nisha was dispossessed inside the Indian half. The Americans entered the circle and off a melee, Abigail Tamer pushed the ball past Savita to make it 1-0 for USA.
The stunned Indians launched a couple of good attacks with Salima Tete driving towards the goal once while Lalremsiami was thwarted by the defenders on the second occasion. American goalkeeper Kelsey Bing effected some good saves in the first half that kept the Indians at bay.
India finally earned three back-to-back penalty corners after some sustained pressure but attempts by Deepika and Navneet and an indirect variation proved futile as the Americans defended their lead very well.
The Indians enjoyed a lot of possession made some good attacks and created two chances but Lalresiami could not give the final touch to a tomahawk by Sangeeta and then a few seconds later, the ball fell too far ahead of her to capitalise. The missed opportunities meant, India went into the half-time break, trailing the United States by a goal.
The Indians pressed hard in the third quarter with Monika and Nikki venturing ahead more to assist. Vaishnavi and Salima Tete made a couple of circle entries but to no avail. the Americans made three circle entires but the Indian defence survived. The Indians seemed to be losing patience, spraying passes around and losing momentum with some missed passes.
The bright start of the third quarter fructified as India earned their second penalty corner but the ball was not stopped cleanly as the ball bobbled and India missed another chance. India earned another penalty corner following a video referral as the first rusher blocked Navneet’s shot. The Indians referred it once again and got a third penalty corner but Navneet’s hot was blocked by goalkeeper Celsey Bing as the quarter ended with the United States still leading 1-0.
India went into full frontal press at the start of the fourth quarter but were soon reduced to 10 players as Vaishnavi Phalke received a yellow card for a clumsy tackle. India earned another penalty corner but Udita’s slap shot was deflected into the goal off Jyoti’s foot, as apparent in the replay following a referral by the Americans.
As the Indians pressed ahead despite the numerical disadvantage, the USA won a penalty corner and though the Indians defended well, Elizabeth Yeager was blocked, resulting into another PC. Savita blocked it but Udita’s clearance was high and ruled dangerous, giving USA another PC. The Indians defended well and denied Ashley Hoffman the space and survived the attack.
India launched another attack with Nikki and Nisha combining well in the right flank into the 23-yard area but the pass into the circle was faulty. A ball into the circle by Navneet off a set piece came close to the goal but the Americans defended well again as the clock ticked down for India.