Hockey Pro League 2020: India beats Netherlands 3-1 in shootout

P.R. Sreejesh made three saves while Vivek Prasad, Gurjant Singh and Akashdeep Singh scored for India in the shootout against Netherlands on Sunday.

Rupinder Pal Singh scored the equaliser for India which forced the second leg against Netherlands into shootout.   -  HOCKEY INDIA

When did India last beat Netherlands in consecutive games in a top-level hockey competition?

Never. More precisely, never before Sunday.

Even its most ardent supporters knew it would be tough for India to replicate Saturday’s total dominance against Netherlands in less than 24 hours. The host ran into a more resolute opposition but proved its victory a day before was no fluke, winning 3-1 in shootouts after coming back to level 3-3 in the second game of the Hockey Pro League here on Sunday.

As it happened: India beats Netherlands 3-1 in shootout, Highlights FIH Hockey Pro League 2020

Unwilling to be surprised a second time, the Dutch knew the best way was to take charge early on. There were a few forays into the Indian circle, including Mirco Pruijser’s backhand shot padded back by PR Sreejesh. But the Indians slowly took control, pressing the Dutch defence hard with several half chances and a penalty corner in the 9th minute but failing to convert them. 

Lalit Upadhyay, Mandeep Singh and S.V. Sunil each had shots at goal, only to shoot wide or taking a fraction longer and losing the moment.

But there was no wide swing of the performance pendulum from a day before. The visitors upped their game, took more chances but India was prepared. India’s half chances early on went a begging, the few precious penalty corners wasted and it looked India was the one under pressure despite the win a day before.


- Attacking hockey -

It was the kind of attacking end-to-end hockey both teams promised before the tie but it did not affect the scoreline. Then, in the 25th minute, Pruijser earned the team’s first penalty corner and Mink van der Weerden placed the ball in the top of the net for the lead. Thirty seconds later, Upadhyay finally played the perfect poacher to deflect Birendra Lakra’s free hit into the net. A counter, an advantage from the umpire despite India’s protests, and then a break even before India could regroup put Netherlands ahead.

Three goals in as many minutes put Netherlands in control of the game with a 3-1 scoreline at halftime with the side dictating the pace of the game post break. Caldas' side cut down on speed and spread out its defence, not ceding Indians space run through the middle. It was a tentative 3rd quarter and, in the past, it would have meant dropped shoulders from an Indian team on the backfoot in the last 15 minutes.

First leg: Hockey Pro League: India begins campaign with 5-2 win over Netherlands

Not this time as the Indians went all out to score and finally cut the margin when Mandeep slot in a penalty corner rebound. India then got another penalty corner, five minutes from time, rocketed in by Rupinder Pal Singh. And then Sreejesh stepped up, saving three of the Dutch attempts in the shootout. The last time India came back from being two goals down against Netherlands was way back in 2015, during the Hockey World League semifinals.

Back then, it led to India winning its first world-level medal, a bronze, in 33 years in shootouts. On Sunday, it gave the team the perfect start to its Olympic dream.

The result: India 3 (Rupinder Pal Singh, Lalit Upadhyay, Mandeep Singh) bt Netherlands 3 (Mink van der Weerden, Jeroen Hertzberger, Bjorn Kellerman) in shootouts.
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