Indian women began their FIH Pro League 2023-24 campaign on a losing note, going down 2-1 to China at the Kalinga Stadium here on Saturday.
This was India’s first loss in the Pro League to the Chinese in three games. India took the lead in the 15th minute through a diving deflection by Vandana Katariya that proved why she is rated so highly and was missed so much during the Olympic Qualifiers recently. But a brilliant slap shot by Wen Dan in the 40th minute and a penalty corner rebound goal by veteran Bingfeng Gu saw China walk away with three points.
The Chinese clearly were the more disciplined side both in attack and defence, controlling the pace and the space of the game. India had its chances but was off-target often and there was a clear lack of coordination between the players. Besides Vandana, the team also saw the return of Sharmila Devi and Gurjit Kaur to the side along with the addition of Mumtaz Khan from the Hockey5s World Cup squad.
But the host struggled to find a way past the tight Chinese defence and was left wanting in its efforts at the back despite some desperate saves by Savita and the quiet brilliance of Ishika Chaudhary both during PC defence and in open play.
In the day’s other game, the Paul van Ass-coached Netherlands team ran riot against USA, winning 7-0 with Pien Dicke scoring four, to send out a clear signal to the other teams. The Dutch women, unbeaten in five games this season, ran circles around the USA defence, controlling the game without conceding space or chances.
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