Olympics hockey: Indian women lose track after bright start in opener (ld, adds details)

Tokyo, July 24 (IANS) India, ranked 9th in the world, matched world No 1 Netherlands in the first half but their challenge fizzled out as the Dutch cantered to a 5-1 win in a Group A match in the women’s hockey competition at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday.

The Dutch took lead through Maria Verschoor in the sixth minute but were stunned when India scored the equaliser four minutes later through skipper Rani Rampal. The Indians then kept the Netherlands at bay in the remaining part of the first quarter and the entire second quarter to go to half-time 1-1.

But the Netherlands, the reigning world champions and 2016 Olympics runners-up, took control of the match and went on a goal-scoring spree in the second session, scoring four goals to hand India a big defeat.

Margot van Greffen (pc) in the 33rd minute, Felice Albers in 44th minute, Frédérique Matla in 45th minute and Calavan Maasakker in the 52nd minute scored for the Netherlands as India got totally outplayed.

The Dutch are three-time Olympic champions and dominant force in women’s hockey while India have qualified for the Olympics for only the third time. The Dutch won silver in Rio de Janeiro while India had finished 12th among 12 teams. The gap was evident on Saturday, though the Indians did well in patches.

They denied the Dutch for a large part of the first half. The Dutch made 12 circle entries but could score only three field goals. They earned six penalty corners but could convert only two of them. They made 23 attacking circle penetrations while the Indians could manage only nine.

The Indian team started aggressively in the first quarter, holding most of the possession and taking the ball towards the Netherlands half as much as possible.

Navneet Kaur made a brilliant run on the right flank but she couldn’t find the back of the net after entering the circle. The Netherlands quickly counterattacked in the next minute and Albers tapped the ball into the goal after receiving a pass from the right flank.

The Indians were not deterred by the 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 but 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 defence stood tall and repelled everything the Dutch threw at them.

The world number one team earned a penalty corner in the 5th minute of the second quarter, however, the Indian defence thwarted them 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 it 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 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 (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 in the 52nd minute to take 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.

–IANS

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