Indian eves draw with Japan at Four Nations tourney

Darwin (Australia), June 1 (IANS) Putting behind the 1-4 thrashing to New Zealand in their campaign opener, the Indian women’s hockey team managed to play out a 1-1 draw against Japan at the Four Nations tournament here on Wednesday.

Striker Poonam Rani scored India’s lone goal in the seventh minute while Hazuki Nagai equalised it for Japan in the 19th minute as the match ended in a tame draw.

Japan started off strongly, holding possession and penetrating the Indian circle several times. But the Indians weathered the storm and were quick in the ascendancy, establishing control over the game.

India almost took the lead with their first attack of the game, as Poonam shuttled past the Japanese defence and managed a shot on goal, only to be denied by Japan goalkeper Sakiyo Asano.

Two minutes later, Anuradha Thokchom sped through the left wing and once at the baseline, she managed to win the first penalty corner of the game.

Defender Sushila Chanu at the top of the circle, in the second battery, flicked the ball onto Poonam’s stick whose deflection beat Asano at the post to put India 1-0 up.

The Indians pressed on and created several chances which were blocked by Asano. A well-worked move between Vandana Katariya and Deep Grace Ekka helped India win their second penalty corner of the game.

India missed the chance but were quickly awarded another and from it Grace drew a sharp save from Asano. The teams went into the break with India leading 1-0.

India started the second quarter in excellent fashion, pressing the Japanese deep into their half and pressuring them constantly. Against the run of play though, Japan won a penalty corner in the 19th minute which Hazuki converted to draw level.

The two teams were locked in a technical battle after the equaliser as Japan, emboldened by their goal, started pressing forward, but India’s strong defense ensured they went into half-time on level terms.

Both teams played a cautious game in the second half. India’s defence held strong and performed brilliantly, even when they went a player down; first via a green card for Monika Malik in the 39th minute and then a yellow for Sushila in the 49th.

India came close to grabbing the winning goal, winning a penalty corner with two minutes left for the final whistle, but the shot went wide, ensuring both teams would split the points and open their tally at the tournament.

India will take on Australia in their final round robin match on Friday.

–IANS

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