Ranchi, Jan 18 (PTI) The Indian women's hockey team fought with tigerish resolve but lost its nerves in the most crucial phase of the penalty shootout, going down to Germany 3-4 in the second semifinal of the FIH Olympic Qualifier here on Thursday.
The match was stretched to a penalty shootout after the teams were tied at 2-2 in the regulation time. With this win Germany secured a berth in the Paris Olympics later this year.
However, India will also have a crumb of consolation as the hosts have another chance to seal their Olympics berth if they beat Japan in the third-fourth place match on Friday.
The top three sides from this tournament will qualify for the Paris Games. World no.5 Germany will take on the USA in the final of this event on Friday.
Deepika (15th minute) and Ishika Chaudhary (59th) were the goal-scorers for India in the regular time, while Germany's both goals were scored by Charlotte Stapenhorst (27th, 57th).
As expected, the Germans came out attacking from the onset and exerted continuous pressure on the Indian defence on a foggy night, where visibility was a problem. The Germans were right on their money with their strategy and made numerous circle entries.
They earned a penalty corner in the opening minute but it was disallowed after India went for a review. But the visitors kept up the pressure and fetched another penalty corner in the ninth minute but India captain and goalkeeper Savita Punia was up to the task.
The Indians too made a few circle penetrations but lacked in finishing.
But egged on by MS Dhoni, the former India cricket team captain who came to watch the game, the home side fought back valiantly to trouble the German defence with their speed.
Just 55 seconds from the end of the first quarter, India secured their first penalty corner and Deepika slammed home with a powerful drag-flick to stun the Germans.
The Indians grew in confidence after the goal and attacked the rival defence continuously, which witnessed a few goal-mouth scrambles but goals eluded them.
The relentless Germans were in no mood to sit back and attacked in numbers after being 0-1 down.
Lack of coordination from the Indian midfield and inability to clear loose balls cost the hosts dearly as Germany equalised three minutes from half-time when Stapenhorst scored from a field effort.
The Germans continued their relentless efforts after the change of ends. But the Indian defence stood tall to deny their opponents.
Three minutes from the third quarter, Savita came into the action and pulled off a fine body save to deny Anne Schroder.
The Germans used their strong frame and powerplay to dominate the Indians.
In the 35th minute, India got a great chance to take the lead from a counter-attack but Deepika's push from close range was easily padded away by German goalkeeper Julia Sonntag.
Seconds later, Germany bagged their second penalty corner but the Indian backline was rock solid, which weathered several German raids.
Eventually, it became too much to handle for the Indian defence. It melted three minutes into the fourth quarter when Stapenhorst scored her second goal of the day to stun the capacity crowd at the Marang Gomke Jaipal Singh Astro Turf Hockey Stadium.
The Indians, however, did not give up and secured back-to-back penalty corners in the 59th minute, the second of which was put into the goal by Ishika from a rebound, forcing the match into the shoot-out.
In the shoot-out, it was advantage India as Savita made two fine saves but Navneet Kaur, Neha Goyal, Sangita Kumari and Sonika missed from one-on-one situation in sudden death to hand Germany the match and ticket to the Paris Games. PTI SSC UNG