India’s aim and aspirations of coming back with two gold medals from Asian Games was already dealt a blow on Thursday with the men losing to Malaysia. A day later that quest dropped to zero gold medals with the women’s team going down 1-2 to Japan in the final. With goals from Minami Shimizu and Motomi Kawamura, Japan produced a resolute display of attacking hockey when required and shut the door in the final quarter with India trailing. Neha Goyal had scored the equaliser for India in the second quarter. With the silver medal, India women’s hockey team’s wait for a gold medal at Asian Games continues with the last top prize coming in 1982 in New Delhi. However, the silver is an upgrade from bronze medal at the Incheon Asian Games in 2014 and replicates the second-place in 1998.
Placed five positions above Japan in the hockey rankings, India were considered to be favourites and end their wait for the gold medal. But Japan gave India little room to breathe and play comfortable hockey that has seen the Rani Rampal led side score 39 goals. In the final, however, Japan were physically and mentally better than their Indian rivals and as the clock ticked down in the final quarter, it showed with India’s attack. Where one player would take time with a long corner thus squandering that attacking chance, another would be indecisive with a pass to let go of the ball. Besides the hesitancy, discipline didn’t help either. Yellow card for Monika in the closing stages reduced India to ten players to further hurt the already bleak chances at grabbing an equaliser.
In the first quarter, Minami Shimizu scored to give Japan the lead soon after India couldn’t make the most of their penalty corner. With Japan’s PC, Shimizu deflected the ball into the roof of the net to give India’s goalkeeper Savita no chance of saving that. India didn’t let go and built on the attack. The dividends paid off in the 25th minute when Navneet’s reverse flick across was steered into into the goal by Neha Goyal to get the equaliser. That’s how the score remained when the hooter went for half time. Both teams took time in getting their bearings right after the break. But it was Japan who took the lead with skipper Motomi Kawumara scoring what turned out to be the winner. In a neat bit of variation on a penalty corner, Kawumara scored in the 44th minute after no India player was found on the goal post. In the final quarter, India pressed and looked for the equaliser but to no avail. With 15 seconds to go, India had a desperate effort to get the second but the ball evaded two India sticks as Japan celebrated moments later.