The Indian Women’s Hockey Team fought valiantly against the World Number 1 Netherlands team in their first encounter of the Tokyo Olympics at the Oi Hockey Stadium on Saturday. The Netherlands took the lead with an early goal in the 6th minute; however, India fought back and equalized the score in the 10th minute. After playing out a goalless second quarter, the Netherlands took complete control of the match and scored four goals in the second half to seal a 5-1 victory.
The Indian team started aggressively in the opening minutes, holding most of the possession and taking the ball towards the Netherlands half as much as possible. Navneet Kaur made a brilliant run in the right flank, however, she couldn’t find the back of the net after entering the circle. The Netherlands quickly counterattacked in the next minute and Felice Albers (6′) tapped the ball into the goal after receiving a pass from the right flank. The Indians were not deterred by the early setback and continued to put pressure on the Dutch. In the 10th minute, India Skipper Rani received a pass in the circle and struck a fantastic back foot drive to open India’s account in the match. Thereafter, the Netherlands earned a Penalty Corner in the last few minutes of the first quarter. The Dutch took a shot at the goal; however, Savita made a brilliant sliding save to keep the score 1-1 at the end of the first quarter.
The Dutch started aggressively in the second quarter, looking to make inroads through the left flank. However, the Indian defense stood tall and fought against everything the Dutch threw at them. The World Number 1 team earned a Penalty Corner in the 5th minute of the second quarter, however, the Indian defense stood tall once again and deflected the ball away from the goal. Moments later, Monika drove the ball through the middle to Navneet, but the latter couldn’t deflect the ball into the goal. The Netherlands earned another Penalty Corner in the 9th minute of the second quarter. The Dutch took a good shot at goal; however, Monika calmly deflected the ball away from the post.
The Netherlands put even more pressure on the Indians in the first few minutes of the third quarter. They earned a Penalty Corner in the 3rd minute of the third quarter and Margot van Geffen (33′) didn’t miss out on the opportunity of putting her team in the lead. The Netherlands continued to make inroads into India’s circle. Pien Sanders made a fantastic circle penetration and passed the ball to Albers (43′), who scored the Netherlands’ third goal of the match. Moments later, Frédérique Matla (45′) took a brilliant shot from the left side of the post and helped the Dutch take a 4-1 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Monika drove the ball into the Dutch circle in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, however, Lalremsiami, who received the ball, couldn’t deflect the ball into the goal. The Netherlands quickly took possession of the ball and converted a Penalty Corner through Caia van Maasakker’s strike in the 52nd minute to take a 5-1 lead in the match. The Netherlands made a few more circle penetrations in the last few minutes of the match before registering their first victory of the competition.
Post-match comments from Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne:
“I think we played very well in the first half. If you have 50 percent ball possession against the Netherlands, I think you are doing very well. We gave away too much space in the third quarter. I think the girls did really really well. This is the first time that we are playing against the Netherlands in six years. Now we have the benchmark and we will look to make improvements and look to grow in the tournament. The confidence is there in the team after especially what we have shown in the first half. I think that’s the main thing we are going to take away from this match.”
In their second Pool A match on Monday 26 July 2021 at 1745hrs IST, India will take on Germany.
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