Harpal Singh Bedi
New Delhi: Playing with a clinical precision India stunned Netherlands 2-1 recording their first win against the defending champions in over a decade in the Women Hockey Pro League at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, on Friday.
Neha (10’) and Sonika (27’) scored for the winners. Jansen Yibbi reduced the margin for the visitors in the 39th minute by converting a stroke.
Navneet Kaur was declared the player of the match. It was also her 100th cap for India.
With this win, the FIH Pro League debutants India climbed to second place in the standings with 17 points from seven matches while the Netherlands still remains on top with 18 points from seven matches.
It was the Indian women’s first victory over the European heavyweights since the 1974 Hockey World Cup in France and India’s second win against the Netherlands in 10 attempts.
It was also the first time India were playing the Olympic champions since losing 5-1 at Tokyo 2020. However, with no member of that Dutch Olympic gold medal-winning team playing on Friday, India captalized on the opportunity provided by the visitors
The Defending Champions started on a blistering pace earning three penalty corners inside the first six minutes, but they could not beat captain and goalkeeper Savita Punia.
India launched furious counter-attack, and surged ahead against the run of play in the 10th minute through a penalty corner.
The Dutch goalkeeper initially kept the ball out but Navneet set up Neha with a pass inside the circle which was neatly converted (1-0)
The goal boosted India’s confidence. Despite having fewer circle penetrations and shots on goal compared to the Netherlands, the hosts were more clinical in the midfield and improved their lead through Sonika in the 27th minute.(2-0)
It was the first time since the Rio Olympics that the Dutch side conceded more than one goal.
At half time the hosts led 2-0 in which they dominated with 59 per cent of the possession.
The third quarter saw the world champions commit more players forward and reaped rewards for it in the 39th minute .Savita Punia saved a penalty corner but the Dutch were awarded a penalty stroke after the ball heading to the goal hit Monika. Jansen Yibbi converted for the Netherlands to set up an intriguing final 15 minutes of play.
The Netherlands, increased their incursions into the rival’s circle looking for a equaliser in the final quarter but were fended off by an equally strong Indian defence.
Although the young Dutch side showed flashes of brilliance and the final 3 minutes that got frantic, but were coolly handled by the Indian team as they kept hold of possession high in the Dutch half and the clock finally ran down, ending the Netherlands long winning run.
Navneet Kaur, playing in her 100th match for India won the player of the match and said: “Happy with the 100th cap and really happy for the team for this impressive win, hopefully we can do the same again tomorrow.”
Dutch captain van Laarhoven said she was not too disappointed with the result, adding: “We are a young team so it will take a little time to find the right rhythm. We played well enough and just need to convert more of the chances. Hopefully we can do that tomorrow.”