India stuns Netherlands 4-3 in tour of Europe

Manpreet Singh brace helps India overcome the World No. 4 team at the Robo Super Series on Sunday.

Manpreet Singh in action against Netherlands at the Robo Super Series on Sunday.   -  HOCKEY INDIA

Manpreet Singh scored twice as Indian men’s hockey team came back from a goal down to stun World No. 4 Netherlands 4-3 in a thrilling encounter at the Robo Super Series, here on Sunday.

Manpreet (30th minute, 44th) was the star for sixth-ranked India, while Varun Kumar (17th) and Harjeet Singh (49th) also sounded the board.

Bob de Voogd scored two goals for Netherlands. The team had a great build-up to the series with a 7-1 win over Germany last week.

Though India made a strong start with forward Ramandeep Singh finding an early chance to score, his attempt went slightly wide. Soon after, Netherlands drew first blood in the fifth minute. The drag flick, however, found the foot of skipper Manpreet Singh resulting in a re-award which subsequently went into a penalty stroke. Mink van der Weerden broke no sweat in putting the ball past India goalkeeper Akash Chikte to give the Dutch a 1-0 lead.

India got over the early jitters with a strong display, largely controlling the midfield led by Manpreet who showcased top quality skill and stick work. The attacking approach helped with India find an opportunity, through a penalty corner, in the 17th minute. Junior World Cup hero Varun Kumar then successfully beat Dutch goalkeeper to equalise the score. Though the Netherlands earned a penalty corner soon after, the effort was tactfully saved by the India goalkeeper.

India pushed the favourites further when Manpreet brilliantly deflected Armaan Qureshi’s cross pass in the 30th minute for a 2-1 lead.

India controlled the first half with better ball possession and opportunities created in the striking circle.

The contest intensified in the third quarter with Manpreet taking a brilliant shot on goal, but the Dutch keeper came up with a class act to pad it away.

The following minutes saw the Dutch being awarded back to back penalty corners but comeback man Amit Rohidas was effective as first runner to deny Dutch successful conversion.

India then set up a thrilling counter attack to put Netherlands under pressure but the Dutch goalkeeper made a good save again.

The third quarter, however, ended with India skipper Manpreet scoring another goal in the 44th minute to give India a 3-1 lead.

Though the Dutch earned a corner with little less than two minutes left for the quarter to end, it was saved by Chikte.

India stayed on course to a win with Harjeet taking the lead to a formidable 4-2 with a well-struck field goal in the 49th minute.

In the final minutes, Nilakanta Sharma made a strong attempt but it was saved by Dutch defender. Though de Voogd scored two goals for the Dutch, India sealed the match 4-3 and walked away with winning point.

India, who lost both their matches against fifth-ranked Belgium to start the European tour on a dismal note, will play Netherlands again on Monday.