India picked up the silver in the women's hockey at the Asian Games after losing 2-1 to Japan in the final in Jakarta on Friday. India paid the price for failing to defend their penalty corner (PC) effectively, and ran into an inspired performance from Japan goalkeeper Megumi Kageyama. This is their first silver at the Asian Games in 20 years, following a defeat to South Korea in the 1998 final.
This is Japan's first gold in women's hockey at the Asian Games. The defeat means India fail to pick up direct qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Both teams began the match with attacking intent, and India created the first scoring opportunity inside the third minute, as Navneet Kaur, fed by Rani Rampal, extracted a sharp save from Kageyama, while Rani's attempt off the rebound went wide. Five minutes on, Savita Punia stretched low to her left to deny forward Aki Yamada. India won their first PC in the 10th minute, and Gurjit Kaur's drag-flick was palmed away by Kageyama. A minute later, Japan converted their first PC, with Minami Shimizu expertly deflecting Shihori Oikawa's drag-flick right from underneath Savita's face to lob it into the top corner of the Indian goal.
Japan tried to keep the Indian attack under control by packing their half in the second quarter, but India found a way around it in the 25th minute. Vandana Katariya picked up the ball during a counter-attack, and dodged past one player before releasing it for Navneet Kaur on the left. Navneet's searing hit across the face of goal was too fast for Kageyama, and Neha Goyal was on hand to tap in the equaliser.
India had the first chance in the second half, with Vandana stealing the ball in midfield in the 35th minute, and playing in Navjot Kaur with a quick exchange of passes, but Navjot's attempt to play Namita Toppo was quelled by Kagayema. Kageyama then denied Vandana two minutes later, and a further two minutes later India had another ball crashed into the circle, just out of Udita's reach.
Japan reclaimed the lead in the 44th minute, as their second PC was converted by Motomi Kawamura, who wrong-footed Savita by having the ball fed to her backhand side, and releasing her shot into the corner of the net.
Japan then closed the game completely, frustrating the Indian women in the final quarter by repeatedly playing the ball into the corners. India's Monika Malik ended up challenging one of the Japanese forwards off one such phase of play in the 55th minute, which earned her a yellow card and forced India to play with 10 players. India took Savita off with two minutes to go, and gave Deep Grace Ekka the kicking full-back duties.
India had a final opportunity with 24 seconds on the clock when a stray ball fell to Vandana inside the Japan circle, but her shot was smothered by Kageyama.