Indian eves go down to New Zealand in Four Nations tourney

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Darwin (Australia), May 31 (IANS) The Indian women’s hockey team had a disastrous start to their campaign at the Four Nations tournament, suffering a 1-4 thrashing to New Zealand here on Tuesday.

Pippa Hayward (18th, 47th minutes) struck twice while Anita McLaren (51st) and Petrea Webster (53rd) scored once each as New Zealand dominated the opening game of the tournament.

Anuradha Devi Thokchom (58th) got a consolation goal for the Indians in the closing stages of the game.

India started the game cautiously, putting bodies behind the ball and defending deep in their own half. New Zealand immediately put the pressure on, winning a penalty corner in the sixth minute. A rebound off Indian goalkeeper Savita’s pads right on the goalline won another penalty corner for New Zealand. However, Savita pulled off a brilliant save to deny New Zealand the lead.

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The Black Sticks controlled the game, with India looking to pounce on the counter attack. In the 11th minute, Savita pulled off another sharp save, off a one on one against Hayward.

New Zealand came out stronger in the second quarter and took the lead thanks to a field goal by Hayward. The teams went into half time with New Zealand leading by the single goal.

India came back stronger and quicker off the blocks in the second half, pushing forward in numbers, and created several penetrations into the New Zealand penalty circle, but they weren’t able to score the equaliser. Navjot Kaur came the closest, shooting wide from the top of the circle.

Going forward in numbers, India bravely left their defence open, allowing New Zealand a chance to launch counter-attacks, and they did, with five minutes of the quarter left. Grace Ekka though, tracked back hard and cleared the ball off the line, to ensure India went only a goal down in the final quarter.

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Early in the final quarter, Lilima Minz was issued a green card, leaving India with a player down. New Zealand capitalised, scoring the second, as Hayward doubled their lead.

With India looking to attack, New Zealand scored two more goals via Anita and Petrea to take a 4-0 lead.

India kept pushing though, looking to score a goal to reduce the deficit and then with two minutes to go in the final quarter, they pulled off what was the goal of the match. Breezing past, three defenders, Anuradha cut into the top of the circle, and unleashed a low reverse shot into the bottom corner to ensure New Zealand wouldn’t leave with a clean sheet.

“We have to take care of the ball when we get it more judiciously. We had a lot of the ball today, especially in the second half when we were countering very strongly. Our final ball around the circle let us down though. The score line doesn’t justify exactly how close the game was, and that is unfortunate. We won’t let it get us down though, and will look at the positives to build for the next match,” India coach Neil Hawgood said after the match.

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