Olympic Games – Bronze Medal Match
Great Britain 4 India 3
Great Britain’s women had to work hard to secure the Bronze medal at Tokyo 2020 as a feisty India team just fell short at the Oi Hockey Stadium, turning around a 2-0 deficit to lead 3-2 before finally succumbing 4-3.
In a game of constantly changing emotions, played in 43 degree heat necessitating four minute quarter breaks and rehydration breaks midway through each quarter, India came so close to emulating their men in winning a medal in another high scoring match.
India, buoyed by their shock win over Australia and performance against Argentina in the knockout stages, attacked early, Navneet Kaur threatening down the right wing. India’s goalkeeper, Savita palmed Giselle Ansley’s second minute penalty corner drag-flick over the bar and kept out two efforts from Sarah Jones and another from Ellie Rayer in a scoreless first half.
Savita wasn’t so fortunate 34 seconds into the second quarter when India fell behind, Rayer attacking along the right baseline before her shot was deflected by Deep Grace Ekka.
Great Britain struggled with their penalty corner routine once more as a first quarter award had been mis-trapped and leading 1-0, Ansley and Jones combined with Jones hitting the right post.
Maddie Hinch, who had been a spectator in the Great Britain goal in the first quarter, was called upon to make an excellent reaction save from Lauremsiami before India decided to manoeuvre the ball around the circle from their first penalty corner, Great Britain defending.
India quickly learned their lesson, but not before Great Britain doubled their lead, Sarah Robertson smashing the ball just inside the left post from the centre of the circle in the 24th minute.
Indian wake up call
Robertson’s strike was the wake-up call that India needed as they pulled a goal back a minute later thanks to Gurjit Kaur’s drag-flick from their third penalty corner, Lily Owsley having been hit by their second.
In the 26th minute, Gurjit Kaur repeated her magic, finding the backboard beyond Hinch’s outstretched leg to bring India level amid celebrations on the pitch.
Three minutes later, India were in dreamland as the comeback was complete, Vandana beating Hinch from wide of the left post, the goal confirmed after a video referral.
Great Britain had work to do in the second half if they were going to take the Bronze medal home, but were frustrated at the start of the third quarter as Ansley and Jones couldn’t connect from another penalty corner routine and Anna Toman’s cross from the right just eluded Izzy Petter’s stick as Great Britain sought an equaliser.
Shortly after Petter had a shot saved by Savita, Great Britain duly levelled, captain, Hollie Pearne-Webb, normally to be found marshalling the defence, in an unfamiliar position in the circle to whack the ball into the inside left netting via a faint touch off Savita’s stick in the 35th minute.
India instantly tried to respond through their deadly penalty corner routine, but Hinch was up to the task, whilst at the other end, Rayer tested Savita and Robertson had a close encounter with the right post, the match having to be stopped to move the goal back into position.
Petter went close twice, the second shot careering over the bar, with the third quarter ending with Great Britain scrambling to try and score a fourth goal followed by an Indian counter attack leading to a penalty corner award with just 1.6 seconds remaining following a video referral, but Great Britain survived.
In the fourth quarter, India started to lose their discipline as had happened in the pool game. Udita spent five minutes in the sin-bin and could only watch as Grace Balsdon found the backboard from Great Britain’s eighth penalty corner and third of the sequence in the 48th minute.
Shona McCallin came to Great Britain’s rescue with eight minutes to play, clearing the ball off the line and onto an Indian foot from India’s eighth penalty corner to keep their lead intact.
Great Britain successfully managed to run out the clock, although they had one scare when India challenged an aerial clearance to the sideline by Leah Wilkinson, who had replaced McCallin after she was struck on the head, but the penalty corner request was declined, India lost their right to a video referral and Great Britain won their third successive medal after Bronze in London and Gold in Rio.
The Indian players were in tears and inconsolable as the final hooter sounded, but they can be incredibly proud of their achievement, having come so close to missing out on the quarter-finals, only a goal three minutes from the end enough to deny Ireland the point they needed to qualify.
Great Britain will now split up into their separate countries as England prepare to take their place in the 2021-22 FIH Pro League competition, starting with a trip to Argentina in February 2022.
Scorers: Ellie Rayer 16-F, Sarah Robertson 24-F, Hollie Pearne-Webb 35-F, Grace Balsdon 48-PC
Starters: Maddie Hinch (GK); Laura Unsworth, Anna Toman, Hannah Martin, Susannah Townsend, Sarah Robertson, Ellie Rayer, Giselle Ansley, Hollie Pearne-Webb (Capt.), Shona McCallin, Lily Owsley.
Subs: Sarah Jones (3 mins), Izzy Petter (4), Leah Wilkinson (4), Fiona Crackles (4), Grace Balsdon (5).
Scorers: Gurjit Kaur 25-PC, 26-PC; Vandana 29-F
Starters: Navjot Kaur, Gurjit Kaur, Deep Grace Ekka, Monika, Savita (GK), Nisha, Vandana Katariya, Udita, Navneet Kaur, Rani (Capt.), Neha.
Subs: Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam (3 mins), Salima Tete (3), Sharmila Devi (6), Lalremsiami (6), Nikki Pradhan (8).
Cards: Green: Nisha (23 mins), Sharmila Devi (51 mins). Yellow: Udita (46 mins).
Umpires: Michelle Joubert (RSA) and Michelle Meister (GER)