Pukekohe (New Zealand), May 17 (IANS) Indian senior womens hockey team here on Wednesday went down fighting 2-3 to New Zealand in their third clash of the five-match series.
For New Zealand, Ella Gunson (13th minute), Deanna Ritchie (15th) and Shiloh Gloyn (39th) scored the goals while Deep Grace Ekka (9th) and Monika (59th) found the back of the net for India.
On a losing streak in the series so far — having gone down 1-4 in the series opener and suffering a 2-8 loss in their second game, the Indian eves looked a dangerous unit initially on Wednesday.
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 in the ninth minute.
Deep Grace Ekka converted a hard-hit penalty corner in the ninth minute after her first attempt found the foot of a New Zealand defender.
The hosts, however, were quick to equalise 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 in scoring New Zealand’s second goal.
India found two good opportunities in the second quarter to score an equaliser when they earned back-to-back penalty corners in the 26th minute — but both went abegging.
The higher-ranked New Zealand came up with textbook defence strategy to clear Indian skipper Rani’s strike on both occasions.
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 denied the Indian skipper success.
New Zealand scored their third goal through Shiloh Gloyn in the 39th minute and India keeper Savita was kept busy by Kiwi strikers throughout the third quarter.
Savita did well to keep the New Zealand strikers 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, the 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, they had to settle for a 2-3 result.
Hosts New Zealand are 3-0 up in the Series.
The two teams will play the fourth match on May 19.