Comeback goals and elusive penalty corners sum up Indian women's Spanish test
In both matches against Spain at the FIH Pro League, the Indian women’s team came from behind to level scores, but the forward line failed to earn a single penalty corner in those eight quarters.
If the scoreboards from India's first round of home matches at the FIH Pro League against Spain are to be believed, the women's team have performed very well, winning the first match and losing the second, both by a margin of one goal. On aggregate, both teams are tied with five goals apiece.
But what has struck the most about this team, which narrowly lost the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, is in its spirit of comebacks. In both the matches against Spain, the girls came from behind to score.
In the first match on Saturday, Spain struck in the 18th minute with Marta Segu's backhand in a counter. But two minutes later, Navneet Kaur's assist helped Jyoti find the net. The winner came from Neha, who scored in the 52nd minute. Similarly, in the second match on Sunday, Spain struck early in the fourth minute, but debutant Sangita's backhand levelled it six minutes later.
Spain found the nets at the 15th minute again, but India found the equaliser through Salima Tete. Spain's third goal in the 24th minute was equalised by Namita in the 49th minute. The final goal was struck by Spain's Xantal Gine, with seconds left for the match.
Coach Janneke Schopman, who took over the reins of the team from Sjoerd Marijne after the Olympics interprets this as a positive sign.
"I think we are showing that we are a more resilient team. We are not giving up even when Spain gets ahead. Especially the second match, with all the downsides - we conceded the penalty corners, we got the stroke, we lost the video referral – but we still scored. As a team, we are learning that these things can happen but we can still fight back and stay in the game," Schopman told The Bridge in an interaction.
However, the flipside is that the India team failed to get a single penalty corner in those eight quarters, which reflects on the forward line.
"You can look at it from both ways. We scored a lot of field goals, which not necessarily a lot of women's teams do. I am happy with the two goals scored in the first match and three in the second one. But of course, when we are in a situation when we can't really score goals, we have to be a little smarter. We need to make sure we create more penalty corners, where we need to use our skill a little better," said the coach.
The team has not been very successful in the video referrals too, losing out the advantage in both the matches. Spain, on the other hand, were more calculated in their move.
"In the first match, we could have referred on two occasions because there was a feet in the circle from Spain. But some of our players were not sure. The referral in the second match was not very smart. But this is why these games are so important for us. Everything is at stake and when you make a mistake, you learn from it," she said.
India have a two-week gap before they play their next couple of matches against Germany. Coach Schopman is quick to point out the grey areas which needs improvement.
"As a team, I am quite happy with the unity, but the individual decision making can improve. So we are going to for a lot of individual meetings this week and hope to be ready before Germany's match."