Tokyo: The Indian women’s hockey team started its campaign in the Olympic test event with a resilient 2-1 victory over hosts Japan here on Saturday.
India took an early lead through their penalty corner specialist, Gurjit Kaur, in the ninth minute, but the hosts equalised in the 16th minute as Aki Mitsuhashi scored a field goal.
However, Gurjit stepped up again in the 35th minute to convert yet another penalty corner, which turned out to be the decisive goal in the match. The Indians started the match with an aggressive intent, and had a few opportunities in the opening 10 minutes.
Both the teams, playing with 16 players as per 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.
The 29-year-old Mitsuhashi combined well with her teammates before drawing parity. With majority of the attacks coming from the Indian team, the Japanese sat back and looked to attack on the counter.
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, and winning themselves 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.