India women find Netherlands too hot to handle, lose hockey opener 1-5
Tokyo: The Indian women’s hockey team fought valiantly in the first two quarters before losing steam to go down 1-5 against world number one Netherlands in their opening pool match at the Tokyo Olympics here on Saturday.
Felice Albers (6th, 43rd) scored a brace for Netherlands, while Margot van Geffen (33rd minute), Frederique Matla (45th) and Caia Jacqueline van Maasakker (52nd) were the other goal getters for the three-time champions and reigning Olympic silver medallist.
India’s lone goal was scored by skipper Rani Rampal in the 10th minute.
It was a closely-contested affair till the first two quarters with the brave Indian defence, led by goalkeeper Savita Punia, showing tenacity to thwart Netherlands’ persistent raids.
The Indians too showed spark in between and mostly relied on counter attacks to surprise their opponents.
As expected, the Netherlands took the lead in the sixth minute through Albers, tapping in from close range a diagonal ball before the advantage was evened out by Rani Rampal in the 10th minute with a hit from the top of the circle.
Thereafter, Netherlands continuously attacked in numbers and in the process secured four penalty corners.
But the Indians defended stoutly, not afraid of putting their bodies in the line of fire. Savita was brilliant under the goal as he made some decisive saves to frustrate Netherlands.
The Indians defended bravely in the first two quarters to go into the half time locked at 1-1 but the break seemed to have broken their momentum as the Dutch came out all guns blazing after the change of ends and pumped in three goals to nip any chance of an upset in the bud.
The Dutch women started on a bright note after the change of ends and earned a penalty corner three minutes into the third quarter which was deflected into the goal by van Geffen to restore Netherlands’ lead.
Netherlands then scored two goals in quick succession through Albers (43rd) and Frederique Matla (45th) to take control of the proceedings and virtually shut the doors of a comeback for India.
If that was not enough, there was more agony in store for the Indians as Caia Jacqueline van Maasakker slammed home from their sixth penalty corner in the 52nd minute.
The difference in the level of both the teams cane be gauged from the fact that Netherlands secured as many as six penalty corners as against India’s none.
India head coach Sjoerd Marijne was not unduly worried at the defeat.
“We played very well in the first half. If you have 50 percent ball possession against the Netherlands, I think you are doing very well. This is the first time that we are playing against the Netherlands in six years,” Marijne said after the match.
“We gave away too much space in third quarter. Now we have the benchmark, we will look to make improvements and grow in the tournament. The confidence is there after what we have shown in first half. That is the main thing we are going to take from this match.”
India will play Germany in their next Pool A match on July 26.
For the Indian women, it’s their second successive Olympics, having featured in the Rio Games for the first time in 36 years.