Women’s FIH Pro League: India come from behind to beat USA

The Indian hockey team scored thrice in the third quarter through Deep Grace Ekka, Navneet Kaur and Sonika.

By Aarish Ansari
Picture by Hockey India

The Indian women’s hockey team came back from a goal down to defeat the USA 4-2 in its penultimate match of the FIH Pro League 2021-22 at the Hazelaarweg Stadion in Rotterdam on Tuesday.

Deep Grace Ekka (31’), Navneet Kaur (32’), Sonika (40’) and Vandana Katariya (50’) scored for India while Daniela Grega (28’) and Natalie Konerth (45’) found the net for USA.

The match began on a sluggish note as both teams defended deep and didn’t make any significant inroads for the first 10 minutes. 

The first real chance fell to the USA in the 11th minute through a penalty corner but the charging Nisha took the drag flick to her shoulder to thwart the chance. 

Only a minute later, India won their first PC of the game only for American custodian Jennifer Rizzo to save Gurjit Kaur’s attempt with her right foot as the first quarter ended without any goals. 

India, ranked eighth in the hockey world rankings, opted for an aggressive approach in the second period, with Sangita Kumari and Sharmila Devi creating a series of opportunities from the left flank. 

In reply, world No. 15 USA also upped the offence with their high press, which gave India plenty of counter attacking chances. 

But it was Team USA that broke the deadlock after a long aerial ball from the half line got the faintest of touches from Danielle Grega inside the circle and went in the net.  

USA’s lead was, however, short lived as India came back with purpose post the half-time break and struck two quick goals to go ahead. 

First Deep Grace Ekka slammed in a penalty corner then Navneet Kaur converted a brilliant team effort from the right flank to make it 2-1. 

Tokyo 2020 semi-finalists India struck once more through another impressive passing display from the left side that saw Sonika finishing it off with a scrappy last touch. 

USA also found their second goal towards the end of the third quarter, making it 3-2 heading into the final period. 

The fourth quarter was also full of action as India extended their lead after a timely interception from Navjot in USA’s half ended with veteran Vandana Katariya sending in a rocket past the American goalkeeper. 

Indian goalkeeper Bichu Devi, who was starting in place of captain Savita Punia, showed incredible work rate between the sticks, pulling off some spectacular saves to deny USA time and again. 

With three points from the match, India remained third in the FIH Pro League standings, amassing 27 points from 13 games. USA, on the other hand, are at the bottom with five points.

India will play their last match of the FIH Pro League 2021-22 season against USA on Wednesday before heading to the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games next month.

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