In a perfect culmination to its more than two month journey on the road, the Indian women's hockey on Sunday won the bronze medal in the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games here on Sunday.
It was a fitting retribution for India as it defeated Zew Zealand 2-1 in the penalty shoot-out following a 1-1 draw in regulation time to finish third. India had lost to Australia in the semifinal in penalty shoot-out after the Hockeyroos were asked to take the first shoot-out again after Indian goalkeeper Savita had saved it.
On Sunday, there was no such drama as Sonika and Navneet converted their penalty shoot-out attempts while Savita thwarted four attempts by the New Zealand attackers, sending the team into wild celebrations.
Earlier, Salima Tete has given India the lead in the just before the half-time and they looked on their way to victory as they attacked well.
However, New Zealand scored in the last 15 seconds off a penalty stroke that was awarded to them when a Indian defender kicked the ball off a desperate last-ditch attack by New Zealand. Olivia Merry converted the stroke to push the match into a shoot-out.
Savita made three sensational saves in the shoot-out, while Sonika and Navneet Kaur struck past Kiwi goalkeeper Grace O'Hanlon as India pulled off a thrilling win. With the bronze medal win, Indian women's hockey team ended their 16-year wait for a medal at the Commonwealth Games.
India started the match cautiously, holding the ball in the midfield, trying to draw the New Zealand players out.
Navneet Kaur and Vandana Katariya got into the circle in the early minutes, but New Zealand defence cleared away the danger. Nisha made a solid save after Rose Tynan made a dangerous pass inside the circle. Salima Tete almost put her team in the lead after India forced their way into the Black Sticks: circle through the central channel, but her shot went just wide as the first quarter ended with both teams goalless and searching for perfect rhythm.
The second quarter started with India making circle penetrations from the left flank and keeping the rival defence true. Navneet Kaur created chance but New Zealand kept their composure and cleared the ball. A counter-attacking move was set up Rose Tynan as she struck a shot towards Alex Lukin in front of the goal. But the ball just went wide and the Kiwis missed the opportunity to score.
India went ahead in the 29th minute when Salima Tete broke the shackles and found the back of the nets with a reverse hit as India entered halftime with a 1-0 lead.
New Zealand, who were contend to sit back in defence and look for counter-attack, started showcasing urgency in the second half, and pressed deeper in India's half. Sonika broke into the circle from the left flanks, and Lalremsiami managed to get a shot, but was denied by a Kiwi defender.
Neha and Navneet Kaur created a beautiful chance for India to extend their lead. But the pass to Sonika in front of the goalpost just went wide. Before the end of the third quarter, New Zealand managed to hit the ball into the nets. But India used their referral well and the goal was disallowed due to an infringement in the lead-up.
With 15 minutes left on the clock, India burst into New Zealand's half with Sushila Chanu making threatening runs from the central channel. Kaitlin Cotter got a shot away from an acute angle, but Indian goalkeeper Savita made a good save, only to see the ball go to Olivia Shannon. Shannon's shot, though, went above the goalpost. India created a string of Penalty Corner opportunities, but the Kiwi goalkeeper Grace O'Hanlon continued to make the saves. Olivia Merry scored from a penalty stroke in the final seconds of the regulation time to push the match to a Shoot-Out.
Megan Hull scored from New Zealand's first attempt in the shoot-out, while Sangita Kumari, who was a surprise pick, missed India's first attempt. Savita pulled off a great save as she denied Ralph Hope to keep India in the hunt.
Sonika levelled the score line 1-1 as she struck past Grace O'Hanlon. With Savita covering the distance and denying her a claer look at the goal, Rose Tynan struck the side netting.
Navneet Kaur struck past Grace give India a 2-1 lead in the shoot-out. With Katie Doar and Olivia Shannon missing for New Zealand, India went on to the win the match to claim the bronze medal.