Gold Coast [Australia]: The Indian Women’s Hockey Team started off their Gold Coast 2018 XXI Commonwealth Games campaign with a disappointing 2-3 loss to Wales in their first Pool A match of the competition here on Thursday.
It was Wales who scored two goals in the first 26 minutes through Lisa Daley (7′) and Sian French (26′) to take a 2-0 lead, but goals from skipper Rani (34′) and Nikki Pradhan (41′) gave the Indian team a much-needed life-line.
However, Natasha Marke-Jones popped up for the Welsh in the 57th minute to give her team a crucial victory against the world number 10 Indian side.
The first quarter saw India struggle to build attacks as their passing was rusty, and the Welsh played with high intensity to spring a surprise for India.
It was in the seventh minute that Wales really threatened India and it was Lisa Daley who found the back of the net to score the first goal of the competition and give her team an important lead.
India tried to consolidate their position in the match by looking for a goal of their own, but they could not create enough opportunities in the opposition’s box.
The second quarter saw a similar story for both the teams as India’s midfield failed to stamp their authority on the match, which meant that Wales were given possession in the middle of the park.
It was something that benefited the Welsh as they extended their lead in the 26th minute through Sian French through another field-goal, leaving the Indian players stunned at the sight with half-time approaching.
As a result of good defending by Wales, the teams went into the half-time break with a 2-0 cushion for the world number 26 side.
After some inspiring words from chief coach Harendra Singh, the Indian team came out after the half-time break with a rejuvenated spirit as they focused on quick and precise passing, creating two crucial penalty corners in the first few minutes of the third quarter, the second of which was converted with a low, deflected shot by captain Rani in the 34th minute.
After pulling a goal back, India looked like the team in command of the situation as they created more chances in search of an equaliser.
Seven minutes later, another chance was converted by the Indian team when Forward Navjot Kaur’s cross towards the goal was deflected into the back of the net by Nikki Pradhan to make the scores 2-2 and put India in a strong position to get the three points.
Minutes later, Poonam Rani celebrated a goal with her team as she thought she had added a third goal for her team, but referee later adjudged the ball to have touched the thigh of the Forward player.
The final quarter was an important one for both the sides as a goal for either team would see them begin their campaigns on a bright note.
It was India’s Monika who had a great chance to score in the 48th minute when skipper Rani’s well-waited pass was struck wide of the post by the midfielder.
India tried to force Wales to defend in most of the final quarter as drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur’s Penalty Corner attempt was also blocked in the 49th minute.
India’s attacking prowess in the match saw them earn themselves a total of 15 Penalty Corners, but the team only managed to convert one, while world number 26 Wales had rare chances in the final quarter.
It was in the 57th minute that Wales attacked the Indian defense on the counter and with India’s Goalkeeper Savita failing to clear the ball, Natasha Marke-Jones sliced the ball in the back of the net to hand her team an important 3-2 victory over India. (ANI)