The newest entrants to the Women’s FIH Hockey Pro League continued to make waves at the Sultan Qaboos Complex in Muscat as India women gave a masterclass in fast but controlled hockey and moved to the top of the FIH Hockey Pro League.
The Eves added to the 7-1 win they had amassed the day before by beating their Asian rivals China by a 2-1 scoreline. While the win wasn’t as goal-heavy as the previous day, what India showed was an ability to play swift, attacking hockey without losing composure.
A lack of experience and a certain level of weariness seemed to beset the China women’s team right from the opening whistle of their second FIH Hockey Pro League match against India. Lost possession, misplaced passes and a reluctance to get back and defend contributed to a lacklustre first half performance by the China team.
India, by contrast, started the match with high levels of energy and an appetite for attacking play that rocked their opponents even further.
Pressure exerted by the Eves on the China defence paid off quickly. A penalty corner in the third minute was converted with precision by Gurjit Kaur – to add to the goal she scored in India’s first FIH Hockey Pro League game against China.
China was fortunate not to be further behind at the end of the first 15 minutes. India created several scoring opportunities but these either flew wide of the China goal or were dealt with by Wu Surong in the China goal.
In the second half, China seemed to rally. They defended with more conviction and the India press was no longer able to contain the China attack.
As India struggled to regain the free-flowing play of the first half, China began to make their own incursions into the India circle. A lovely pass that split the India defence left Wang Shumin with just Savita to beat. The India goalkeeper rushed forward but Wang was able to place the ball in the corner and restore both parity and her team’s confidence levels.
A series of India penalty corners was the Eves’ answer to the Chinese revival but each attempt was dealt with by a resolute China defence.
The final quarter saw India attack with a renewed vigour. Monika was particularly visible as she led the team forward. The hard work paid off as India won a penalty corner almost instantly. Ekka Deep Grace saw her shot fly wide but the notice had been served – India were intent on all three points.
Wu Surong was quickly out of her goal to smother a fast break from Kaur Navneet. The Chinese ‘keeper was playing in only her seventh senior international and this save showed she was quickly adapting to the pace of hockey.
However, Wu Surong had no chance when Gurjit Kaur stepped up for yet another penalty corner. The penalty corner specialist made no mistake as she slotted the ball home to double her team’s score.
As the quarter counted down, India continued to pile on the pressure but they were also happy to try new things. They transferred the ball across the pitch with confidence and the effect upon China was to deepen the levels of fatigue within the team.
If India’s Head Coach Janneke Schopman were to be disappointed with anything about her team’s performance it would likely be the fact that 33 circle penetrations only yielded six shots at goal.
Monika, who played such an influential role in the match, was named Player of the Match: ‘I am really happy with the team performance over the two matches against China,’ she said. ‘It was great to play as a unit like we played at the last Olympics. We are playing with freedom and it is really enjoyable.’