The Indian hockey women’s team endured a close 1-0 loss to New Zealand in their third tour game in Auckland on Wednesday.
Hope Ralph was the only scorer of the day as she sounded the board in the 37th minute to hand Kiwis the decisive lead.
Having suffered a 1-2 loss in their previous tie, the Indian hockey team was determined to make amends to their game and started on a bright note against the hosts.
With the attackers creating enough trouble in the opposition’s striking circle, the Indians were handed a penalty corner in the second minute of the tie. But the Rani Rampal-led side couldn’t make the most of the opportunity as the chance went begging.
Surprised by the initial foray, the Kiwis countered India’s intent with their swift passing as they managed to get past the Indian midfield time and again in the opening exchanges. But the Indian hockey team’s backline ensured that none of the attacks resulted in any damage to their prospects.
Though New Zealand was awarded a handful of short corners, the hosts could barely make anything of it as the two sides found it hard to break the deadlock in the opening quarter.
The story was no different post the quarter break as the two teams chose to work on their structure and tried to find a way past the defences to have a crack at the goal. But some delightful defending meant neither of the sides could muster much in the opening 30 minutes.
However, a drop in concentration from the Indian hockey women's team in the third quarter saw Hope Ralph squeeze herself past the Indian defence to score the only goal of the game.
Sjoerd Marijne still satisfied
Later, though the Indian hockey team dug deep, they could not find a way past the Kiwi backline. However, chief coach Sjoerd Marijne was pleased with his side’s performance on Wednesday.
“Today we tried a few things on the defensive side and that allowed New Zealand to come in our circle and create opportunities but it's better to practice these variations now in the matches as this tour is more about our preparations for the Olympic Games and see how we can be better," explained Marijne.
The Dutch tactician also stated that the whole idea behind the New Zealand tour was to work on the team’s performance and the results barely mattered to him at this stage.
“Our game is improving every match and today was again better than the previous match. At this moment, results are not important but the process is and we are working on some new tactics that will help us in the long run,” he added.
What next for the Indian hockey women’s team
The Indian hockey women’s team will take on the reigning Olympic champions Great Britain in their next tour game on February 4 before wrapping up the New Zealand trip with a tie against the Kiwis the following day.