It was a fight to the very end between India and Canada women as they battled for a place in the semi-finals of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. Canada needed just a draw to progress, while for India nothing less than a win would do.
Had Canada triumphed it would have been a historical moment as the Wolf Pack have never finished higher than fifth at the competition. For India, a place in the semi-finals would represent an opportunity for them to finish higher than their fourth place at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
In the end, it was the Eves who took the win and the chance to play for medals but the game hung in the balance until the final whistle.
India began the match with all the intensity of a team that was going to leave everything on the pitch. They were rewarded for their efforts in the third minute when Tete Salima was able to steer the ball home after a penalty corner strike had bounced around the Canadian goal.
The lead was doubled in the second quarter when Navneet Kaur showed all her considerable skill and agility to dance her way into a scoring position and guide the ball past Rowan Harris in the Canada goal.
That second goal was the wake-up call that Canada needed and just one minute later Brienne Stairs was on hand to deflect penalty corner past Savita. This signalled a period of sustained Canadian dominance as the Wolf Pack showed all the discipline, patience and hard-work that has made them increasingly a force to be reckoned with since their World Cup experience a few weeks ago.
Hannah Haughn was able to celebrate her 200th cap with the goal that brought the scores level. A cleverly worked penalty corner routine saw McManus slip the ball to Haughn after Karli Johansen had drawn the India front runner with a disguised move at the top of the circle.
Hannah Haughn celebrated her 200th cap with a goal in the third quarter. Photos/Yan Huckendubler
This meant the teams went into the fourth quarter with very different goals. For Canada it was a case of maintaining the status quo. India, on the other hand, had to go all our for a winner.
India thought they had scored in the 47th when Katariya Vandana had been able to slip the ball past Harris after a hustling move by Salima along the backline. Salima was adjudged to have stick tackled and the goal was disallowed.
The teams continued to battle, although both sets of players were looking increasingly fatigued. Natalie Sourisseau was the architect of several Canadian attacks but even she fell to the ground exhausted when a mazy run through the India defence was halted by the excellent Gurjit.
Canadian hearts, and resolve, were finally broken in the 51st minute when Lalremsiami was on hand to tap home the ball after a Gurjit Kaur penalty corner strike. As the ball dipped over the line, you could virtually hear the mantle of Canadian belief cracking.
The final few minutes were frenetic, chaotic and full of heart as both teams strove to make the final four. India, however, had their lead and were not letting go. India carried the torch across the line and finished with the 3-2 decision, enough to vault them into the medal rounds. Canada will now play in the 5-6 classification match, a chance to tie their 2018 fifth place finish and end their month of world hockey on a high.