Indian Eves Done in By Late Dutch Equaliser, Lose Shootout

It was a match that did not live up to great heights – it struggled to match the excitement of the first leg which the hosts won 2-1. The hot, humid conditions at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar since it was a day game, may have been a factor in free-flowing hockey taking a backseat. India appeared to be in control for most part of the match and was done in by a late equaliser, and subsequently went down in the shootout to be denied a bonus point. The Dutch will feel a lot better after the opening game blues.

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The way the match started was in stark contrast to what unfolded in the remainder of the contest. Hardly had the Netherlands settled in any kind of rhythm, Sonika Tandi darted inside the Dutch ‘D’ from the right and found the foot of a Dutch defender, resulting in a first-minute penalty corner for India. Drag-flick triumpcard Gurjit Kaur unleashed a shot that brushed the stick of a Dutch player and found newbie forward Rajwinder Kaur, who did the needful to trigger celebrations in the Indian camp.

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There was no immediate comeback response from the Dutch as the contest was largely confined to the midfield. The usual two-minute quarter break was increased to four minutes because of very hot weather conditions. The Dutch forwardline was literally non-existent as Savita was reduced to a mere spectator until the closing minutes of the first half when she pulled off three quality saves. India held a slender lead at half-time.

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The Netherlands forwardline showed more purpose in the second half, especially in the final quarter. The likes of Kyra Fortuin, Lilli De Nooijer, Fiona Morgenstern, and Marente Barentsen did everything to breach the Indian goal but Savita stood like a rock, foiling their attempts with aplomb. Indian deep defence soaked up a lot of pressure when the Dutch won a plethora of penalty corners, but each time the visitors were frustrated. Their agony soon ended when Dutch captain provided their side a lifeline when Yibbi Jansen converted a short corner after they had bungled their seven PCs. India almost immediately could have regained the lead but Gurjit Kaur’s drag-flick off a short corner hit the upright.

A win could have put India on top in the points table ahead of the Netherlands. The Blueskirts are now placed second in the standings with 16 points from 8 games, while the Dutch have 19 points from as many games.