The Indian women's hockey team stunned Olympic champions Netherlands 2-1 in the first match of their double leg FIH Pro League tie in Bhubaneswar on Saturday.
The Indians scored through Neha (11th minute) and Sonika (28th), both from penalty corners, to hand the home team a 2-0 lead at half time. After the change of ends, the Netherlands scored from a penalty corner through Jansen Yibbi in the 40th minute to reduce the margin.
This was India's fourth win in the FIH Pro League.
Even though the Netherlands have arrived here with a second-string side, it was a creditable performance from the Indians as they were also without three key players -- Lalremsiami, Salima Tete and Sharmila Devi, who were part of India's historic fourth-place finish in the Tokyo Olympics - currently featuring for the junior women's team in the ongoing World Cup.
Netherlands have come here without any player from their successful Olympic campaign, in which they handed India a 1-5 drubbing in the pool stage of the Tokyo Games.
The victory took India to second spot in the standings with 15 points from seven games, while the Netherlands continued to lead the table with 17 points from as many matches. Both teams will lock horns again in the second match of the tie on Saturday.
Congratulations to our Player Of The Match Navneet Kaur for the splendid performance to ensure an assuring victory against Netherlands.#IndiaKaGame #HockeyIndia #FIHProLeague #HockeyAtItsBest @CMO_Odisha @sports_odisha @IndiaSports @Media_SAI pic.twitter.com/66lLKxMPP4
- Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) April 8, 2022
Even though India enjoyed more possession, the Netherlands were the better side on display in terms of circle penetration, shots on goal and penalty corners. The Netherlands had 30 circle penetrations, 13 shots on goal and seven penalty corners as compared to India's 12 circle penetrations, five shots on goal and three set pieces.
The Indians took the lead from their first real attack of the match, which came off a penalty corner through an alert Neha, who deflected home Navneet Kaur's pass after the initial effort was kept out by the Dutch defence.
Early into the second quarter, Rajwinder missed a golden opportunity to double India's lead with only the Dutch goalkeeper to beat as she sent her shot wide. Two minutes from half time, India doubled their lead from another penalty corner through Sonika, who calmly slotted home following a goalmouth scramble.
Ten minutes into the third quarter, the Netherlands secured a penalty corner which resulted in a penalty stroke after the ball hit Monika's body in front of goal. India captain and goalkeeper Savita guessed the direction correctly but couldn't keep away Yibbi's shot as the Netherlands reduced the margin to 1-2.
Thereafter, the Dutch women put the Indian defence under tremendous pressure with continuous raids but the home team's defence stood like a rock to garner all three points and a rare win over the reigning World champions.