Asian Games : Indian hockey eves settle for silver

New Delhi: The Indian women’s hockey team’s glorious campaign at the 18th Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang 2018 came to an end on Friday, which saw them lose 1-2 to Japan in a well-contested Final held here at the Gelora Bung Karno Hockey Field.

The Japanese team secured their victory with two goals from penalty corners, which were scored by Minami Shimizu (11′) and Motomi Kawamura (44′) while India’s only goal was scored by Neha Goyal (25′). The loss meant that the Indian team secured a silver medal at the Asian Games for the first time since 1998, when they had lost to Republic of Korea by the same margin.

Riding high on confidence, the Indian team started the first quarter well as they created a few opportunities, which saw forwards Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur and skipper Rani come close to scoring, but were denied by a rigid Japanese defense. The Japanese got into the game and had their first real chance in the eighth minute as they forced Indian Goalkeeper Savita to make a save off Aki Yamada’s shot. The 10th minute saw India win their first PC of the match as Navneet Kaur pushed the ball onto a Japanese defender’s foot.

It was Gurjit Kaur who executed the drag-flick, forcing Japan’s Megumi Kageyama to make a save on her left side to deny the Indians. However, Japan also won their first penalty corner in the next minute and struck the first blow as Minami Shimizu converted the chance to give Japan the lead.

The World No. 14 Japanese team looked comfortable on the ball towards the start of the second quarter and made several interceptions to deny India the opportunity to stitch passes together.

However, the Indian team was finally successful in finding an equalizer in the 25th minute as Navneet Kaur and Neha Goyal combined in a brilliant counter-attacking move to score India’s first goal. It was Navneet Kaur who struck a reverse shot across goal from inside the striking circle to find Neha Goyal, who deflected the ball into the back of the net. The remaining five minutes in the second period saw a good midfield battle between the two teams but neither team could take the lead, meaning the scores remained 1-1 at the half-time interval.

The World No. 9 Indian team started the third quarter better as they minimised unforced errors, building pressure on their opponents by keeping the ball better. India had the first chance of the period in the 36th minute as Vandana Katariya and Navjot Kaur combined to attack on the counter, but the Japanese defense held firm to clear the ball away. Vandana Katariya took another shot in the next minute but her strike was saved by the Japanese Goalkeeper Kageyama. The Indian team improved their performance in the third period as they pressed their lower-ranked opponents higher up the field and made key interceptions to deny the Japanese for most part of the duration.

However, with just over a minute remaining in the third quarter, Japan were awarded their second penalty corner, which was well converted by Motomi Kawamura through a variation to end the third quarter with a 2-1 lead.

It was desperate times for the Indian team as they went into the fourth quarter looking to create opportunities in the first few minutes but were unable to find a way past the Japanese defense. Whereas, Japan, on the other hand, tried to stay in front and manage the match well as they kept possession inside India’s half to utilise vital seconds. The Indian team found it difficult to tackle Japan’s defensive tactics but looked to attack inside the final few minutes, creating an opportunity in the last minute when Rani and Vandana Katariya found themselves in possession inside Japan’s striking circle, but the latter’s shot went just wide of the goalpost as Japan saw out the match to register a 2-1 win.