India salvaged a 1-1 draw against a rampaging England to get their Women’s Hockey World Cup campaign to a positive start in London on Saturday.
It was a match of two halves as Indians looked assured and strong in the opening half and even took the lead through a Neha Goyal goal in the 25th minute. But England came back firing on all cylinders in the second half and though the Indians hung on gamely, Lily Owsley found the equaliser seven minutes from time.
India, playing in the World Cup after a gap of eight years, were solid in defence for most part of the 60-minute encounter and relied on counter to find a goal.
The ploy worked well in the opening half as England made a few unforced errors and Rani Rampal and company capitalised on one such chance in the 25th minute when Nikki Pradhan found Navjot Kaur inside the circle and the striker turned quickly to cross the ball across the goal-mouth. Goyal was at the right place at the right time. There was a hint of controversy over the goal with England opting to refer for a high ball and dangerous play from the original pass, but the video referee ruled in India’ favour.
At half time, coach Sjoerd Marijne spoke about the need for pressing higher but England had different plans and simply pushed the Indian team on the backfoot with their probing runs from the right.
England skipper Alex Danson was the one leading the charge as she dribbled past Indian defenders from the right and earned quite a few penalty corners.
However, England were poor in their conversion and had wasted eight penalty corners before converting the ninth, eventually from the rebound. They would consider themselves lucky that the Indian defence failed to clear the ball well and Ellie Watton found Owsley in the melee for an equaliser.
Marijne had mixed feelings after the match and understandably so as the Indians missed out on a chance to earn three full points after a disciplined display. But the Indian team could take confidence from the match and look forward to the next two round-robin encounters against Ireland and USA with an eye on the top spot in the group.