NZ takes 3-0 lead as India goes down fighting

Despite its gritty performance on Wednesday, India suffered its third defeat in a row against host New Zealand.

Stacey Mitchelson (right) was among the goals on Wednesday as well.   -  Getty Images

India fought hard until the final hooter but went down 2-3 to New Zealand in the third game of the five-match series. The host is now 3-0 up in the series.

After suffering an 8-2 loss in its previous game, the Indian women came out strongly on Wednesday. They looked a dangerous unit, putting up a structured performance with good attack, strong long drives and cross field passes, which put the host on the back-foot and constantly kept the New Zealand team in the hunt.

The visiting team played aggressively right from the word go and its strategy paid off in the first quarter when it found an early 1-0 lead. 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.

But the host was 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 field goal in the 15th minute. She was well assisted by captain Stacey Michelsen to score New Zealand’s second goal.

India found two good opportunities in the second quarter to score an equaliser when it earned back-to-back penalty corners in the 26th minute. But the higher-ranked New Zealand came up with textbook defence strategy to clear Indian skipper Rani’s strike.

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 promptly denied the Indian skipper of a successful strike. New Zealand scored its third goal through Shiloh Gloyn in the 39th minute.

Solid defence

India keeper Savita was kept busy by Kiwi strikers through the third quarter. She did well to keep New Zealand 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 its second match against New Zealand on Tuesday - when maximum goals were scored by the host in the last quarter -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 rapidly, they had to settle for a 2-3 result.

The two teams will play their fourth match on May 19.

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