Savita Poonia has been growing in stature not just as a goalkeeper but as a captain of the side – she showed one more example of leading from the front, making three crucial saves to help Indian hockey eves pip Germany 3-0 in a shootout, thus obliterating the blues of losing the first leg in a shootout. It was heartening to see youngsters like Salima Tete, Sangita Kumar and Sonika convert during the shootout while Germany drew a blank in the shootout that was applied after both teams were tied 1-1 in regulation time.
Earlier, Indian women were at a tactical disadvantage literally from the outset as they lost their video referral in the opening minute of play while asking for a penalty corner for back-stick that was rejected by video umpire Javed Sheikh. The hosts were made to pay as they could not go upstairs on several occasions when it appeared decisions could have gone in their favour.
Unperturbed by the referral denial, the hosts applied the high press and it seemed to rattle the Germans, who were not able to dictate possession. Navneet Kaur was the standout performer upfront and it was a joy watching her shoulder responsiblity in the absence of experienced Vandana Katariya and Rani Rampal. The Indians were doing all the spadework upfront but poor finishing hurt them. Almost against the run of play, Germany went ahead when Felicia Wiedermann deflected a Stine Kurz drag-flick to cap off a superb penalty corner routine as the black brigade went into half-time with a slender lead.
Push to the wall, India moved forward with purpose in the second half. Nisha Warsi literally overpowered Nike Beckhaus to nudge the ball in a goalmouth scramble even as German goalkeeper Mali Wichmaan was wrong-footed. The young forward duo of Deepika Junior and Sangita Kumar were impressive – Deepika nearly created a goal for India with a superb run from the left but Sharmila Devi bungled that attempt. India had to endure some anxious moments in the closing seconds as the Germans forced back-to-back short corners but Savita stood tall and stretched the contest into a shotout, where she enacted the heroic act.