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Sloppy start for Indian eves, split points with Scotland

Reigning silver medalist India had to split points after being held to a 1-1 draw by a lowly Scotland in their opening Pool A match of the women's hockey event in the Commonwealth Games at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here today. The Indians fought back from a 0-1 deficit through Jasjeet Kaur Handa (45th minute) after Scotland took the lead in the third minute from a Holly Gram field goal.

The Indian eves had a mixed day in office, displaying contrasting hockey in both halves. While the home team looked out of sorts in the opening period, they dominated proceedings after the breather. India looked clueless in the first half, sparkling only in patches, while the Scots were by far the better side on display as they combined well to put pressure on the opponent's defence on numerous occasions.

In front of a sparse crowd that gathered at the stadium here, India conceded a goal early in the opening half, and from there on, played the catch-up game in the rest of the half. The less-fancied Scots surged ahead as early as in the third minute when Gram scored from a field goal from the left wing. The Indians, however, got numerous opportunities to draw level but poor ball control and finishing let them down. The Indians wasted a golden chance to draw parity in the eighth minute from their first penalty corner.

Captain Surinder did the spade work by earning a set piece only to see Subhadra Pradhan shot's being deflected wide off the target by charger Linda Clement. Slowly and steadily Scotland took control of the proceedings as India lacked cohesion while attacking and seemed to run out of ideas inside the opponents' box. Credit must also go to the agile Scottish defence, which stood firm during difficult situations. In the 18th minute, Scotland earned two back-to-back short corners but on both occasion, their variations did not work. Veteran Saba Anjum earned India its second penalty corner in the 26th minute but Handa's flick went over the bar.

India could have been down by two goals in the opening half if not for Binita Toppo, who made a goalline save in the 33rd minute, but gave away a penalty corner which the Scots wasted. Young Rani Rampal also got an opportunity to make her presence felt in the dying seconds of the half but her reverse hit, shot from inside the Scotland Dee, went inches wide of the right post. Stunned by the opening half result, the Indians came out with purpose after the change of ends, which was evidently visible in their game. The Indian eves went all out, attacking from the onset, and their efforts bore fruit in the 45th minute when Handa drew parity with a field goal after a one-two with Ritu Rani. Scotland got a great chance to restore their lead two minutes later but Samantha Judge's fierce strike from the top of the Indian circle went agonisingly wide off the target.

However, in the final 10 minutes of the match, it was all India as the hosts made numerous raids into the rival citadel for the elusive winner but on all occasions, either luck or the stubborn Scottish defence, came in their way. The draw against 21st ranked Scotland, however, was a disappointing result for the Indian eves, who are looking forward to emulate their gold medal-winning feat in the 2002 Manchester Games, after having lost out on the opportunity in Melbourne fours years ago. India will next face the mighty Australians while Scotland will be up against Trinidad and Tobago. Meanwhile, in the other women's hockey matches of the day, New Zealand defeated Wales 5-1 in Pool B, South Africa trounced Trinidad and Tobago 12-0 in Pool A, while Malaysia beat Canada 3-2 in Pool B. - PTI


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