Hockey Olympic Qualifiers: India lose to Germany in shootout; will play third-place match for Olympic berth

The Indian women’s hockey team scored with a minute left on the clock to hold Germany 2-2 but could not hold their nerve in a sudden death shoot-out despite taking a 2-1 lead to lose 3-4 and fail to make the final of the women’s FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers here on Thursday.

The Indian women’s hockey team scored with a minute left on the clock to hold Germany 2-2 but could not hold their nerve in a sudden death shoot-out despite taking a 2-1 lead to lose 3-4 and fail to make the final of the women’s FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers here on Thursday.

The heart-breaking defeat means India will play Japan in the third-place match on Friday with a victory clinching the ticket to the Paris Olympics. Germany joined the USA in the final, with both teams booking their entry into the Olympics.

Though the Indians fought superbly, they had themselves to blame as they failed to keep their nerve in the tiebreaker.

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In the shoot-out, Savita saved the first attempt by Linnea Weidemann but India went ahead when Sangita Kumari showed a cool head as she converted her attempt to make it 1-0 for India. Sonja Zimmermann converted the next attempt, Sonika’s attempt was ruled in with seconds remaining.

Savita made the next attempt by Anne Schröder but India could not take advantage as Navneet Kaur was blocked by the American goalkeeper but shot wide off the retake as India led 2-1. Nike Lorenz and Lisa Nolte scored the next two attempts for Germany but Neha missed her shot as the teams ended 3-3 in five attempts.

Sangita Kumari missed her attempt in the sudden death shoot-out and Sonja Zimmermann converted her attempt contested by the Indians as the ball just tickled over the line. Sonika missed the next attempt and Lisa Nolte converted to seal victory for Germany.

Earlier in regulation time, India looked down and out after Charlotte Stapenhorst scored in the 57th minute to give Germany a 2-1 lead after she had earlier cancelled out India’s lead earned through a superb penalty corner conversion by Deepika. With just seconds remaining on the clock, Ishita Chaudhary scored a dream goal off a penalty corner to make it 2-2. But in the end that fightback was not enough to help the hosts win.

Germany started on an aggressive note and the first attack led to them winning a penalty corner. However, the Indians defended well to deny them. The Indians made a couple of attacks but could not get into the circle.

With Neha, Vaishnavi and Salima Tete launching swift attacks, the Indians made a couple of circle entries but were thwarted by the German defence.

With two minutes to go for the end of the first quarter, India launched a strong attack and bagged a penalty corner when the ball hit the foot of a German defender. Deepika, the lone drag flicker in the team, converted with a spectacular drag flick to the right of the goalkeeper to give India a 1-0 lead as the clock ticked down to the end of the first quarter.

In the first minute of the second quarter, India launched a superb attack but Sangita Kumari’s attempt was stopped. The Indians held the upper hand in the second quarter with Salima Tete, Navneet Kaur, Vaishnavi and Sangita making some good runs at the German defence but they could not breach it for the second goal.

Against the run of play, Germany levelled the scores in the 27th minute when they entered the Indian circle and Charlotte Stapenhorst capitalised on a chance to make it 1-1.

That’s how the score stayed going into the half-time break.

Both teams continued to search for their second goal with sporadic runs into the final third at both ends of the pitch but the defenders of both the teams were up to the mark. For India, Nikki Pradhan, Udita and Monika were solid as usual and fought for each ball. Skipper Savita was rock solid as usual despite conceding a goal as they thwarted many attempts while marshalling her defenders superbly.

Germany dominated the third quarter and launched some strong attacks towards the end of the period when off a fine attack, Nira Horn shot into the side netting as the Indian defenders failed to prevent her from taking a shot.

In the fourth quarter, Vaishnavi made it into the final third on the attacking end but was tackled down by Pauline Celile, getting injured in the process as the players bumped heads.

India had a chance when Neha made a run into the circle and gave Deepika an inside pass. But Deepika’s high push was palmed away by goalkeeper Julia Sonntag.

A minute later, India were down to 10 players when Salima Tete was shown a yellow card. They then conceded a penalty corner for a foul on an American forward.

Heinz’s push to the first battery was passed by Nike Lorenz to Sonja Zimmermann but the Indians defended well. At the other end of the pitch, the Indians had a chance when Sangita got into the circle but Selin Oruz was up to the mark and defended well.

A defence-splitting pass found Charlotte Stephenhorst unmarked inside the circle and she planted a strong shot past goalkeeper Savita.

India launched a couple of urgent attacks but their attempts to bag a penalty corner did not materialise as the Germans defended strongly.

However, a foul by a German defender Emma Davidsmeyer inside the circle got a penalty corner. Though Deepika’s first attempt was blocked dangerously, Ishika Chaudhary pushed home a rebound after placing herself in perfect position after making the injection on the retaken penalty corner. India levelled the scores 2-2 with just seconds remaining on the clock, taking the match into the shoot-out tiebreaker.

(IANS)

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