Penalty corner specialist Gurjit Kaur scored a brace as the Indian women’s hockey team started its campaign at the Olympic test event with a gritty 2-1 victory over hosts Japan at the Oi Hockey Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday. Gurjit Kaur gave India a 1-0 lead by scoring a goal in the ninth minute of the game, but the hosts equalised in the 16th minute as Aki Mitsuhashi scored a field goal. However, in the 35th minute, Gurjit Kaur stepped up to convert yet another penalty corner, which turned out to be the decisive goal in the match.
The Indian women’s team started the match well, with an aggressive intent, and had a few opportunities in the opening 10 minutes.
It was in the ninth minute that India found themselves on the front-foot, and ended up winning a penalty corner. The resulting drag-flick from Gurjit was struck beautifully and beat the Japanese goalkeeper Megumi Kageyama to give India an early lead.
Both the teams — playing with 16 players in accordance with the Olympic Games guidelines — made swift and timely substitutions throughout the match and it was in the 16th minute that Japan’s substitution worked for them as Aki finished off a great team goal to restore parity.
With majority of the attacks coming from the Indian team, the Japanese sat back and looked to counter attack. The teams have played each other frequently in the past couple of years, which showed on the field as they understood each other’s tactics well, and it meant that the teams went into the half-time break level at 1-1.
The third quarter saw India dominate the initial few minutes earning another penalty corner in the 35th minute. A moment of magic from Gurjit saw India regain their one goal advantage as the 23-year-old smashed the ball into the back of the net.
The hosts tried to look for another equaliser in the remaining minutes, but could not convert their opportunities into goals. However, India defended resiliently in the closing stages to seal the win.
India will now take on Australia on Sunday. It will be a tough outing for the Indian team as its has only registered one win in their last 10 meetings against the Australians.