Tokyo: The Indian women’s hockey team came back twice from a goal deficit to hold world number 2 side Australia 2-2 in a hard-fought round-robin league match of the Olympic test event here on Sunday.
Vandana Katariya (36th) and Gurjit Kaur (59th) scored for India to cancel out strikes from Kaitlin Nobbs (14th) and Grace Stewart (43rd) in their second match of the tournament. India had beaten hosts Japan 2-1 in their first match on Saturday.
World number 10 India began the match aggressively, matching Australia’s attacking hockey with their own brand which saw both teams earn penalty corners. However, neither side managed to score.
But in the 14th minute, Australia were awarded a penalty stroke after an Indian defender blocked a shot at goal. Nobbs made no mistake in converting from the spot to give Australia a 1-0 advantage.
The world number 2 hockey side dominated the second quarter completely, putting the Indian team under intense pressure through multiple attacks and penalty corners. But India’s defence held firm and goalkeeper Savita made a couple of great saves to deny Australia who were 1-0 up at the half-time break.
The third quarter again saw Australia dominate possession and create a couple of goal-scoring opportunities through penalty corners. However, Savita again made fine saves to deny the Australians.
India struck on the break as Vandana Katariya finished off a superb move to equalise in the 36th minute. But the lead did not last long as Australia started to look for their second goal.
It was in the 43rd minute that the Australian hockey team found their second goal through some exquisite team work, which saw Grace Stewart also registering her name on the score-sheet to give Australia a 2-1 lead.
It was a tough ask for the Indian team as Australia did not give them enough space inside the striking circle. However, the Indians showed determination as they kept looking for the equaliser in the last quarter.
With moves breaking down, and chances going waste, it looked like Australia would hold onto their 2-1 lead, but with just a couple of minutes remaining on the clock, India won a crucial penalty corner in the 59th minute.
And, prolific drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur stepped up and struck a sweet blow into the back of the net to earn India a well-deserved draw.
The Indian women’s team will face China on Tuesday in their third and last round-robin match of the tournament.