Pukekohe [New Zealand]: The New Zealand women’s hockey team fended off a fighting Indian side 3-2 in the third Test to take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series here on Wednesday.
After suffering an 8-2 loss in their previous game, the Indian women looked like a dangerous unit today as they put up a structured performance with good attack, strong long drives, cross field passes that put the hosts on the backfoot and constantly kept them in the hunt
The visitors played aggressively right from the word go and their strategy paid off in the first quarter when they found an early 1-0 lead.
It was Deep Grace Ekka who converted a hard-hit penalty corner in the ninth minute after her first attempt found the foot of a New Zealand defender.
But the hosts were quick to equalize with Ella Gunson converting a penalty stroke in the 13th minute. The Black Sticks ended the first quarter with a 2-1 lead with Deanna Ritchie scoring a 15th minute field goal. She was well assisted by captain Stacey Michelsen to score New Zealand’s second goal.
India found two good opportunities in the second quarter to score an equalizer when they earned back-to-back penalty corners in the 26th minute.
But the higher-ranked New Zealand came up with textbook defence strategy to clear Indian skipper Rani’s strike. Rani played a crucial role for India as she made space in the striking circle on several occasions, going for her trademark reverse-hit on goal but New Zealand keeper Sally Rutherford promptly denied the Indian skipper of a successful strike.
Though New Zealand scored their third goal through Shiloh Gloyn in the 39th minute, India keeper Savita was kept busy by Kiwi strikers through the third quarter. She did well to keep New Zealand from taking further lead. With three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Savita made a crucial save when New Zealand bagged a penalty corner.
Unlike their second match against New Zealand on Tuesday when maximum goals were scored by the hosts in the last quarter, Indian defence was rock solid to deny any goal in the final 15 minutes of the match.
With little less than two minutes remaining for the final hooter, India won a penalty corner in the 59th minute. A cleverly planned and executed variation saw Rani pass the ball to Monika who made no mistake in sending the ball inside the goal.
The dying minutes of the match saw Indian women make desperate attempts to find space and go for a draw but with time ticking away rapidly, they had to settle for a 2-3 result. (ANI)