Indian women’s hockey team put up a determined performance to end their campaign in Argentina with a 1-1 draw.
It was Indian skipper Rani who struck for India in the 35th minute while Emilia Forcherio scored for the home team through a penalty stroke. This was India’s fourth scheduled match against the World No. 2 ranked side after the third match to be played on Saturday was abandoned due to incessant rains. Earlier in the tour, India had drawn 2-2, 1-1 against the Argentina junior team and lost 1-2, 2-3 to Argentina ‘B’ team.
Against the Argentina senior side, India lost 2-3 and 0-2 in the first and second matches. Hence, when the Rani-led squad walked on to the pitch on Sunday, they played with an intent to secure the elusive win against the home side.
But experienced Argentina continued to showcase a dominant performance, getting off the blocks in the first quarter with the well-structured attack. The early pressure forced on India’s defence line worked for Argentina as they earned two penalty corners within three minutes of the first quarter. India’s ace goalkeeper Savita had to make brilliant effort to save on both occasions.
Though India found a good opportunity to score in the 11th minute when they were awarded a penalty corner, a poor execution did not equip Rani to make a powerful strike. However, three minutes into the second quarter, Rani found yet another opportunity to score when experienced forward Vandana Katariya assisted her but a valiant Argentine defence held strong, covering every inch in the striking circle. In the following minutes, Argentina won two penalty corners in the 23rd and 24th minutes but Savita continued to remain the cynosure of Indian defence as she continued to make impressive saves.
Skipper Rani finally found the right opportunity to score when India made an aggressive start to the third quarter. It was Vandana again who found Rani poised in front of the goal and fed her the ball from the right flank. Rani made no mistake in receiving the pass and swiftly striking the ball past the Argentine goalkeeper to earn India a 1-0 lead in the 35th minute. In the remaining minutes of the third quarter, India put all their might into defending the scoreline.
Though India had two good opportunities to extend the lead in the 39th and 50th minute of the game, the chance was lost. Argentina, on the other hand, pushed for goals and a body foul while defending penalty corner in the 55th minute, saw India concede a penalty stroke. Forcherio was on target to convert, equalising the score to 1-1. Under pressure, India conceded two more penalty corners in the 56th and 59th minute but Argentina could not score, thus settling for a 1-1 draw.
“After the 1-0 lead, we had to stay calm and continue to pursue our attack. We had to play more smartly but that is something we can work on,” stated chief coach Sjoerd Marijne about the match.