Profligate Indian women were guilty of wasting too many scoring opportunities as they went down 3-2 against Wales in the Pool A opener at the Gold Coast Hockey Centre on Thursday.
The Rani Rampal led Indian team, one of the pre-tournament favourites to win a medal in Gold Coast, were undone by a slow start and inability to convert over a dozen penalty corners to lose against a side ranked 16 places below in the world ranking.
For all the pre-event talk of trying to climb the Mount Everest from the Indian side, the 2002 Manchester Games gold medallists were slow off the blocks in the first quarter and struggled to find their rhythm in the first half. And though they came back strongly in the last half an hour by scoring twice, a Natasha Marke-Jones’ goal in the 57th minute against the run of play helped the Welsh women to take full points.
Lisa Daley gave Wales the lead in the eighth minute and the shock of conceding an early goal seemed to have weighed down the Indian women through the first two quarters. And things began to look bleak when Deepika pushed Siam French inside the striking circle and the midfielder made no mistake in converting the penalty stroke in the 26th minute.
India earned two penalty corners before the half-time hooter but failed to convert any of them. In fact, the world number 10 team earned as many as 15 penalty corners through the match and could convert only one at the start of the third quarter.
The Indians had come out showing more purpose in the third quarter and skipper Rani Rampal struck the team’s fifth penalty corner hard enough to get a deflection off a defender and end up in the net, four minutes after restart.
India then continued to pound the Welsh defence with a flurry of attacks and earned three consecutive penalty corners, only to waste them all. But Nikki Pradhan managed to restore parity with a sneaky deflection off a hopeful hit inside the striking circle in the 41st minute and it looked like the Indians could find a winner anytime soon.
However, the Welsh were resolute in defence and their goalkeeper Roseanne Thomas stood tall to thwart any Indian attempt to find a winner.
Marke-Jones was then at the right place at the right time to pounce on a mistake from the Indians while defending a cross from the right three minutes from the final hooter to find the winner.
India will now face face Malaysia in the second group encounter on Friday and need a win to stay alive in the tournament.
Corrections and clarifications: The scorer of India’s second goal has been corrected on the basis of the official scorecard listing Pradhan as the goal scorer.