Antwerp (Belgium): India’s defence caved in against a strong New Zealand as they suffered a 0-5 loss for their second successive defeat in the league stage of the women’s Hockey World League Semifinals at the KHC Dragons Stadium here today. Dominating the bewildered Indian defence, Gemma Flynn and Kirsten Pearce scored two goals each, while Olivia Merry contributed one as World No. 4 New Zealand posted a thumping triumph for their second straight win in Pool B.
The Indian defence crumbled after matching the rivals for the initial 10 minutes of the contest. India had lost 0-1 to Belgium on the opening day, and tomorrow they take on Poland. Poland are the lowest-ranked team in the group, which also features World Cup silver medalists Australia. Hampered slightly by the cold weather, the Indian eves seemed to match the higher-ranked rivals and even mounted a few fine moves deep into the rival territory before the Flynn opened the scoring for the Black Sticks by swatting in a rebound from goalkeeper Savita, who had blocked a firm reverse hit by Ella Gunson.
Merry stretched the lead by flicking home during goalmouth scrimmage in the 17th minute. The Indian defence lost its structure in the second session and New Zealand had repeated shots at the citadel.
Flynn again got into goal-scoring action in the 32nd minute on her second attempt off the goalkeeper’s pads. Pearce then got into the act in the 44th minute by capitalising on a long ball he received inside the circle and then rounded off the scoring in the 52nd minute.
Conceding that the rivals played much better, Indian captain Ritu Rani was dejected by the margin of the defeat. “We should have defended better, we conceded too many goals,” said Rani.
Indian coach Mathias Ahrens said there was an enormous difference in the way the team started and the margin of defeat. “We gave away two scrappy goals. We did not play a stable game, although the difference between the two teams was enormous,” said Ahrens, who has recently taken charge of the World No. 13 Indian team.
After losing to Belgium, placed one spot ahead of India in the world rankings, India are heading for a quarterfinal encounter with World champions, The Netherlands. Three teams from each of the World League Semifinals are assured passage to the Olympics, but some teams outside the semifinals could also qualify for the mega event.