This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Indian hockey eves had a score to settle against the Japanese women. Four years back at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, they were denied a bronze medal by Japan through a 78th minute golden goal after goalless regulation time. In fact, India were thirsting for revenge as they went down tamely 0-3 to the same opponents in the league phase of the 2010 Asiad. Clearly, the ‘extra determination’ of the Indians was evident at the Seonhak Hockey Stadium in Incheon on Wednesday.
The Indian outfit – who have four survivors of the 2010 Asiad side – skipper Ritu Rani, Deepika Thakur, Pooja Rani and Rani Rampal struck once in each half to notch up a 2-1 win and bag the bronze medal. The Blueskirts looked sturdy in the early exchanges even as the backline exuded resoluteness to keep the Japanese forwardline at bay. The Indians looked good to go up 1-0 in the first quarter through Vandana Katariya, but the Japanese nullified that attempt.
India took their positive intent into the second quarter and forced their first penalty corner, but the Japanese shot stopper Yoshikawa Yuka foiled that attempt. But the Neil Hawgood-coached side made the most of their second short corner when Jaspreet Kaur fired home in the 23rd minute – her fourth goal of the tournament. Japan came close to equalizing, but muffed up a scoring opportunity as India led 1-0 at half-time.
Shibata Akane gave the Japanese a huge sigh of relief, producing the equalizer in the 41st minute. But the Indians ensured the Japanese joy did not last long as Vandana Katariya regained the lead for India following some crafty stickwork by skipper Ritu Rani a minute later. Japan applied pressure in the final quarter and won two short corners, but the Indian defence stood firm.
Vandana Katariya appeared on course to score the ‘insurance’ goal, but she was off-target; had she scored it would have all over bar the shouting for Japan. The Indian survived the closing stages to close out a sweet revenge-exacting 2-1 win.
This is the fifth time India have won a medal at the Asian Games and the third time they have won a bronze at the Asian Games. They first bagged a bronze at the 1986 Seoul Asiad and the next after a twenty year gap at the 2006 Doha Asiad. It is pertinent to mention that Indian eves had won the gold at the 1982 Delhi Asiad and a silver medal at the 1998 Bangkok Asiad.