Hockey: China and India women set up final rematch

India captain Vandana Katariya levelling the score for her team, after China had gone 2-0 up. The Indian team failed to hold on, conceding a late goal to lose 2-3. Both teams will play again in today's final.
India captain Vandana Katariya levelling the score for her team, after China had gone 2-0 up. The Indian team failed to hold on, conceding a late goal to lose 2-3. Both teams will play again in today's final.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Young Chinese side find late inspiration to win against India, whose coach rues lapses

Midway through the first quarter of the final group stage match of the Women's Asian Champions Trophy yesterday, China's coach Weng Haiqin shouted to his charges: "Don't hesitate!"

And they listened, holding their nerve to hand India a 3-2 loss - their first in the competition - at the Sengkang Hockey Stadium and reach tonight's final, where they will face the same opponents in a rematch.

China topped the five-team table with nine points, while India finished second with seven points.

Speaking to The Straits Times after the match, Weng attributed his side's initial hesitancy to a lack of experience.

The Chinese team are a developmental squad with an average age of 19.1 and Weng said: "I felt they wavered a little at the beginning as they were thinking too much.

"But on the whole, they followed what we've been doing in training."

The first half ended in a goal-less deadlock.

Chinese forward Chen Yang opened the scoring in the second half with a field goal in the 35th minute, as her watching team-mates screamed in jubilation and jumped for joy. Three missed penalty corners for India saw China enter the final quarter with a 1-0 lead.

That lead extended to 2-0, when forward Guo Qiu scored another field goal in the 51st minute.

India fought back through Poonam Rani and captain Vandana Katariya, but a converted penalty corner from China's Ou Zixia with just two minutes to go sealed the win for the world's eighth-ranked side.

World No. 12 India's coach Neil Hawgood lamented his team's missed chances and, pointing to his head, said: "That's here."

Referring to his side's 2-2 draw against Japan last Saturday, the Australian added: "They held on, and then they lost their heads and forgot what they did to hold on.

"They did that against Japan when they were 2-0 up, and within four minutes, Japan scored two goals to take the win away... so that's just the focus and concentration part that they lapsed on."

Still, the former Olympian was confident of their chances ahead of today's final, saying: "The lesson is we've got to understand our way of playing and play it, and we've got to understand (China's) way of playing and defend against it.

"That eight-minute period when we dominated (China) and actually passed the ball was good to watch, so hopefully we can see four quarters of that tomorrow."

Weng is also looking forward to the rematch, but admitted that his side would have to guard against complacency.

He said: "They're still young, and I think it would be very easy for them to get complacent after a win like today.

"But we'll have to go back and analyse today's match, and discuss how to improve.

"We will prepare ourselves for an exciting match tomorrow."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2016, with the headline 'China and India women set up final rematch'. Print Edition | Subscribe