Scratchy start for Indian eves

Scratchy start for Indian eves

 Lowly-ranked Ukraine put on fine show to hold hosts to 1-1 draw.

saving grace India's Soundarya Yendala (centre) celebrates with her team-mates after scoring the equaliser against Ukraine in their Olympic qualifier match on Saturday. PTI

Indian women were held to a tame 1-1 draw by a lowly-ranked Ukraine in the opening match of the Olympic qualifier at the Major Dhyan Chand National stadium here on Saturday.

The result left a lot to ponder over for the Indian girls, who are hoping to play in the Olympics for the first time since 1980.

Ukraine, ranked 26 in the world as against India’s 13, was put ahead by their skipper Maryna Vynohradova though a penalty corner strike in the 26th minute.

Rattled, India bounced back in the second half through Soundarya Yendala’s strike in the 42nd minute.

The homeside was unlucky when a goal which would have given them a 2-1 lead was disallowed. In the 55th minute, Poonam Rani scooped the ball and Anuradha Devi tapped it in but the goal was nullified because of dangerous play. 

There was more drama late in the match. India wasted a penalty corner seconds before the hooter, but got a successive one. It was, however, taken back by the umpire after a protest from Ukraine.

The Indian girls, however, have themselves to blame for the scoreline. They were sluggish on the field and their passing and trapping was patchy to say the least. The team’s right wing continued to be a problem with most of the moves coming from the left.

The Ukranians resorted to long passing and their tight defence made it difficult for the India to penetrate.

It is not that the hosts didn’t have their chances. There were several potent moves which died a premature death like in the 28th minute when Rani Rampal and then Poonam Rani at the top of the circle failed to trap a precise cross from Soundarya.

Ukraine, on the other hand, were far more synchronised. Their raid in the Indian defence fetched them a penalty corner in the fifth minute.

They failed to convert but scored in the second just ten minutes before the half time. Indians stepped on the gas, and Rani on being fed from the right, had a golden opportunity to score but her attempt went awry, with the ball going past the crossbar. India entered the half time down 0-1.

As if shaken from slumber, the Indians returned with aggression and attacked the rival defence with fervour. In one such move, Jasjeet from the circle gave a perfect ball to Soundarya, who scored with a firm strike. They continued to make openings in a pacy second half but faltered at the finish.

In other matches, South Africa overcame a gritty Poland 2-1, while Canada drew with Italy 2-2.