A brilliant first half followed by a clumsy and chaoctic second was the story for India before it regained control against the Netherlands in its second FIH Pro League match here on Sunday. The final result, a 2-2 draw, was a reflection of the performance on field.
The mandatory shootout saw India take a bonus point and its second win on the trot.
The World No. 1 side was always expected to be much tougher than Spain but, to its credit, the host held its structure for the first two quarters. Sitting deep in defence and accelerating on counter-attacks, the Indians kept the opposition at bay, not yielding space or pace. The Dutch used long balls both on ground and in the air to bypass the midfield crowd but were unable to get past a resolute Indian defence. At the other end, India managed a couple of Penalty Corners (PC) in the 12th minute but couldn’t make them count.
Hardik Singh stepped up and broke the deadlock a minute later. Running along the middle on a counter, Hardik found Sukhjeet Singh on the right, got it back on reverse and shot into the goal through the smallest of gaps between the goalkeeper and post. Manpreet’s desperate diving clearance in the final minute before the break was deemed deliberate and awarded the Netherlands its 2nd PC. Jip Janssen made no mistake in levelling.
The Indians seemed to lose their structure and control in the second half. Suddenly, the Dutch seemed to a lot more threatening. The third quarter was all about Dutch dominance and they unsurprisingly went ahead, Koen Bijen slapping home a sharp rebound off a PC in the 39th. India finally brought back a semblance of control in the fourth and had a couple of open chances till Harmanpreet got the equaliser, two minutes from time.
In the day’s other match, Australia looked set for an easy win after taking a 3-1 lead against Spain before the latter fought back in the third quarter, getting two goals in as many minutes to level scores before Lachlan Sharp got his second and the team’s fourth to ensure full points for Australia.
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