Hastings (New Zealand): The Indian women’s hockey team lost 0-1 to New Zealand in the opening match of the Hawke’s Bay Cup here on Saturday.
Pitted against the fourth ranked side in the world, it was always going to be an uphill task for 11th ranked India. Olivia Merry scored a field goal in the second quarter but Indian goalkeeper Savita needed to be credited for her fantastic show against an attacking side.
The hosts were all over the Indians from the whistle. Two penalty corners were thwarted away and a smart save from Savita in goal, off a penalty stroke, one that shocked the fans meant India walked away from the first quarter with a clean sheet.
New Zealand took the lead through an Olivia field goal at the beginning of the second quarter.
Forced to defend deep, India played the waiting game, as New Zealand kept them pressed back in their own half for a large portion of the first half, and they went into the break trailing the hosts 0-1.
Savita, who was always going to be put under pressure in the high voltage encounter, rose to the occasion, denying New Zealand several times, and ensuring India always had a chance to come back.
In the last quarter particularly, Savita’s saves from six New Zealand attempts put the pressure on the hosts to close the match out. But India were unable to find the equaliser.
Speaking after the match, India chief coach Neil Hawgood applauded his goalkeeper’s performance. “In such pressure games, against higher ranked opponents, who also happen to be the hosts, it is important that your goalkeepers have a world class game,” he said in a release.
“Despite the loss, we can see positives in our performance in defence and in goal. This was arguably the toughest match of our group stage and now we can build forward for our next encounters.”