Not too long ago, the Indian women’s hockey team was firmly entrenched at fourth spot in the hierarchy of Asian teams — behind Korea, China and Japan. On Saturday, three goals in as many minutes right at the end of the game saw them register a comprehensive 4-1 victory over defending champion Korea in its Pool-B match to reiterate that the existing order was likely to be overturned.
It was a crucial outing for the girls to decide the pool topper but, more importantly, it was the first big test for the team in the competition. Having leapfrogged the other three to be ranked ninth in the world, the Indians had a reputation to protect. They did it perfectly, outplaying Korea in every department — planning, fitness and execution.
The score was 1-1 till the 53rd minute before India broke loose. Korea’s only goal came off a penalty stroke awarded for a dodgy push. Thereafter, it was a battle of attrition in the midfield with both teams conceding turnovers by the dozen.
By the final quarter, however, Korea began tiring out and India stepped up the pace. Gurjit Kaur scored off both the penalty corners India got — PCs have been a concern so far. Vandana Katariya struck a lovely reverse shot after wrong-footing the goalkeeper after Navneet Kaur gave the team an early lead.
With only its second second win against Korea in the Asian Games — the previous was a 5-1 victory in the inaugural edition in 1982 — India went on top of the pool to stake claim as one of the favourites for the title here.