The Indian women’s hockey team crashed out of the FIH World Cup title race after losing 0-1 to co-host Spain in a hard-fought crossover match here on Monday.
After fiercely-contested three quarters, the Indian defence let in a goal just three minutes from the final hooter when Marta Segu scored from a rebound to exit from the knock-out rounds.
As has been the case so far in the tournament, India fared poorly once again in converting penalty corners. They earned four in the game against Spain’s three but all the chances went in vain.
India’s first penalty corner came in the eighth minute but the Spanish defence was up to the task to deny any inroads.
In the first quarter, both the teams were a little hesitant in their play, committing some unforced errors which resulted in very few scoring chances.
After that it was all about Spain as it explored ways to get past the India back line.
India captain Savita, in front of the goal, showed why she has such high reputation as she pulled off saves time and again to keep the deadlock intact.
Spain continued to attack in the second quarter and in a moment of goalkeeping brilliance, Savita made three consecutive saves, first from a Xantal Gine’s penalty corner strike, then a rebound from the same player and finally a rebound from Begona Garcia to keep her side afloat.
Seconds later, India secured its second penalty corner but, first, Spain goalie Melanie Garcia saved Monika’s shot, and then Lucia Jimenez showed immense composure to keep out the rebound.
India soon created a great opportunity to take the lead when Salima Tete set it up for Vandana Katariya with a brilliant run along the baseline but the latter dinked over the cross bar while trying to chip it over Garcia’s reach as both the teams failed to break the stalemate at half-time.
After the change of ends, India started on the front foot and Spain had to stay focused to keep its opponent’s attacks at bay.
The momentum shifted back and forth during the third quarter as both the teams were looking increasingly frantic, resulting in mistakes, but the deadlock still remained.
The fourth and final quarter saw both the teams creating early opportunities.
First, an unmarked Sara Barrios shot wide with only Savita to beat and then a lovely flowing move by India was cut out before it could find the telling shot. Then Jimenez tried to juggle her way through the Indian defence only to meet the impenetrable Savita.
Spain’s Georgina Oliva then danced through the Indian defence but shot over the bar.
Monika also made some great runs to trouble the Spanish defence, but failed to yield any result from them.
The deadlock finally broke just three minutes from the hooter through Marta Segu, who scored from a rebound from close range after Clara Ycart’s initial shot was saved by Savita.
Leading by a goal, Spain didn’t make the final minutes easy for itself as it played with nine players with Garcia receiving a yellow card and then Segu receiving a green.
Despite enjoying the two-player advantage, the Indians failed to capitalise on the opportunity, thereby crashing out of the medal rounds.
India will next play Canada for the ninth to 16th place classification match here on Tuesday.
In the quarterfinals, New Zealand will play Germany, another co-host, Netherlands, will be up against Belgium. Australia will take on Spain and England will square off against Argentina.
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