Just after 30 seconds from pushback, Udita hit a long pass to Neha at the edge of the circle. The midfielder earned a foul, released a pass to find Salima Tete down the right flank. The speedster from Simdega, who was dubbed as ‘Ferrari’ by former coach Sjoerd Marijne, broke through at pace and dribbled into the circle. Her pass then found the stick of Jyoti first and broke kindly for another Simdega star in Sangita Kumari who swept home first time to put India ahead.
That goal came with 14:29 on the clock, and 41 seconds into a massive clash against New Zealand at the FIH Olympic Qualifiers in Ranchi on Sunday, India took the lead. Make no mistake, the pressure on Savita Punia’s team for this clash was incredibly high after a defeat to USA on Saturday. Another defeat here and that was it for their dreams of reaching Paris.
An early goal was just what the doctor ordered as India prevailed 3-1 against the Black Sticks to keep their hopes alive.
Coach Janneke Schopman would later reveal that she was a little bit worried that India had scored far too early and it might lull them into stepping back too soon. That did happen in Q1 as New Zealand responded well to equalise. But to their credit, India bounced back immediately in the opening fifteen minutes to lead 3-1 and held on to that for the rest of the night.
Udita (12′), celebrating her birthday, and Beauty Dungdung (14′), who is also a product of the Simdega training center, scored the second and third goals. New Zealand’s equalising goal came from Megan Hull (9′).