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Women's Hockey: India draw 1-1 with Japan in their second game at Four Nations Invitational Tournament

Poonam Rani scored India's only goal from a penalty corner in the 7th minute.

Neither side could find a clincher in a tight, goalless second half at Darwin today

The women’s hockey teams of India and Japan played out a tight 1-1 draw at the Four Nations Invitational Tournament in Darwin, Australia today.

The Indians would definitely have felt hard done by after yesterday’s 1-4 loss to New Zealand which included two very debatable goals by the Black Sticks. Nevertheless, Wednesday brought for India a fresh chance to return to winning ways by having a go at the Japanese opposition who are ranked 10th by the FIH, pretty close to India who are 13th themselves.

As their second match of the tour got underway, it was heartening to see a beautifully-knit Indian unit take control and dictate matters on the field. A couple of close brushes later, India’s first penalty corner – an area where coach Neil Hawgood has always emphasised – yielded the breakthrough with Poonam Rani getting her name on the scoresheet in the 7th minute.

Also Read: Interview with Indian women's hockey coach Neil Hawgood: Performing in major tournaments is the focus

The second quarter didn’t quite go as the Blueskirts would have desired. Japanese tightened their hold on the proceedings and clearly had a better spell as compared to the Indians, the most notable development coming in the 19th minute when Hazuki Nagai found the net to fetch their equaliser.

Nothing to separate the sides with two penalty corner goals apiece, the match went into halftime.

The third quarter was relatively flat. Although Japan did make several penetrations into India’s final third, the intensity to finish things in front of goal was lacking which kept the score tied 1-1, going into the last fifteen minutes.

Soon after play resumed, Indian skipper Sushila Chanu was shown the yellow card which meant her side was depleted for the next crucial five minutes of the last quarter. A disciplined Indian defence did not let that worsen the situation and it remained all square till the hooter was blown to signal the end of the game.

Had the final penalty corner opportunity that fell to defender Deep Grace Ekka’s stick not gone wide, the outcome would’ve certainly been more delightful for the Indian team.

Speaking after the match, coach Neil Hawgood expressed his satisfaction at his side’s performance today, particularly since Japan had defeated the Indians 3-1 in their previous encounter that had taken place in the Hawke’s Bay Cup earlier this year.

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