The Indian women’s hockey team went down 0-1 to New Zealand in the opening match of the Hawke’s Bay Cup on Saturday, in a match where forward Poonam Rani achieved the distinction of playing 150 games for the country.
India walked away from the first quarter with a clean sheet courtesy a smart save from goalkeeper Savita off a penalty stroke. But New Zealand took the lead through an Olivia Merry field goal at the beginning of the second quarter.
Forced to defend deep, India played the waiting game, as New Zealand kept them pressed back in their own half for a large portion of the first half, and they went into the break trailing the hosts 0-1.
In the last quarter, Savita’s saves from six New Zealand attempts put the pressure on the hosts to close the match out but the scoreline remained unchanged, which was just enough for New Zealand.
Speaking after the match, Chief Coach Neil Hawgood applauded his goalkeeper’s performance. “In such pressure games, against higher-ranked opponents, who also happen to be the hosts, it is important that your goalkeepers have a world-class game.”
“Despite the loss, we can see positives in our performance in defence and in goal. This was arguably the toughest match of our group stage and now we can build forward for our next encounters.”
The milestone match ended in disappointment for Poonam, who played her first international in 2009.
She represented India in the World Cup in Argentina, in New Delhi’s Commonwealth Games and Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010.
India will play Ireland in their next pool game on April 5.