CWG hockey: Clock controversy overshadows brave India comeback in a heartbreaking defeat to Australia

Never the one to hide her emotions, Savita Punia clenched her fist and burst into an impromptu, somewhat low-key celebration, aware of the huge advantage she has given her team.

After a series of regular-time saves in the Commonwealth Games semi-final against Australia, which ended in a 1-1 draw for both sides, India captain Rosie Malone denied her first penalty shootout attempt.

Lalremsiami then stepped up to take her shootout but just as she was about to start her run the referee stopped her and said the first Australian shootout had to be retaken because the shot clock didn’t start on her first attempt .

It was a bizarre sequence of events, in which coach Janneke Schopman expressed her displeasure and protested in vain to the referees.

Malone didn’t miss the second time, giving Australia the lead. The top three Indian players – Lalremsiami, Nehal Goyal and Navneet Kaur – missed their chances as Australia won 3-0 to advance to the final. India will face New Zealand in the play-off for the bronze medal on Sunday.

Schopman, who spent a lot of time comforting her distraught players after the game, took a hard line on match officials, saying the clock controversy ‘didn’t help’ her team.

“I just don’t understand. Australia didn’t complain… I think even the officials didn’t understand what was happening… it’s not an excuse, but it certainly didn’t help us,” she said.

This is not the first time such an incident, very rare in international hockey, has occurred in a match involving India. Exactly one year ago, during the Indian men’s team bronze medal match at the Tokyo Olympics, the match officials failed to restart the clock after a stoppage of play, forcing the game to be played an extra 11 seconds.

However, Friday’s controversy overshadowed a tense match in which India made a valiant comeback.

Rebecca Greiner scored for Australia in the tenth minute before Vandana Katariya equalized in the 49th minute of the game.

Savita saved a penalty corner that Australia deserved in the last minute and forced a tiebreak.

Schopman said the controversy over the clock may have affected her players’ focus early on.

“It’s hard and I think we’re trying to be as coaches… but that’s life. It’s emotional and there was so much at stake. Of course they don’t have to be influenced by it, but they are also people and it did play a role. The players are sad and should be sad. We fought very hard and were very close to playing the final,” she said.

Savita added: “All I can say is it’s hard for us, but it’s part of the game.”

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