The Indian women's hockey team went down 0-1 to hosts New Zealand in the opening match of the Hawke’s Bay Cup on Saturday at Hastings, New Zealand. Olivia Merry scored the all-important goal for the Kiwis in the match, which also saw Indian forward Poonam Rani earning her 150th cap for the country.
ndia’s opening match against the hosts started with the Indians immediately forced on the backfoot as New Zealand attacked with speed right from the whistle. Two penalty corners were thwarted away and the score remained nil. A smart save from Savita in goal, off a penalty stroke, one that shocked the fans meant India walked away from the first quarter with a clean sheet. But New Zealand took the lead through an Olivia Merry field goal at the beginning of the second quarter.
Forced to defend deep, India played the waiting game, as New Zealand kept them pressed back in their own half for a large portion of the first half, and they went into the break trailing the hosts 1-0.
Indian goalkeeper Savita, who was always going to be put under pressure in the high voltage encounter, rose to the occasion, denying New Zealand several times through the game, and ensuring India were always had a chance to come back. In the last quarter particularly, Savita’s saves from six New Zealand attempts put the pressure on the hosts to close the match out. New Zealand’s last PC of the game, defended superbly meant there was no change to the score, as the points went to the hosts.
Speaking after the match, Chief Coach Neil Hawgood applauded his goalkeeper’s performance. “In such pressure games, against higher ranked opponents, who also happen to be the hosts, it is important that your goalkeepers have a world-class game. Despite the loss, we can see positives in our performance in defence and in goal. This was arguably the toughest match of our group stage and now we can build forward for our next encounters.”
In the match, Indian Eves forward Poonam Rani also achieved the distinction of playing 150 matches for the country. Hisar-born Poonam, who played her first International in 2009, has not looked back since her debut helped her seal a Junior World Cup berth in the United States the same year. She later represented India in the World Cup in Argentina, in New Delhi’s Commonwealth Games and Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010.
Since then Poonam has represented India in almost every tournament that the country has played. She was also part of the historic bronze medal winning team at the Junior World Cup in Germany in 2013 and the Olympic qualifying team last year.
“Hockey India is
Report Courtesy: © Hockey India Media