India holds nerve to go past Argentina

India survived a final-quarter onslaught from Argentina for a nail-biting 2-1 win that enhanced its quarterfinal chances at the men's hockey competition of the Rio Olympics, here today.

This was India's first win over Argentina since 2009.   -  Reuters

India held its ground in the last quarter, especially through some fine work by goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh, to record its second victory in the league, a 2-1 win over Argentina at the Deodoro Olympic Hockey Centre on Tuesday.

Having consolidated its position in the race for the quarterfinal berths, and with two matches left in the group against the Netherlands and Canada, to improve its status further, India celebrated, in a mild fashion, thanking the fans for the support.

READ: >Sreejesh: It's my job my give life to the team

Every win deserves celebration for a team that had finished 12th in the last edition in London and had failed to make it to the Beijing Olympics. The team, on a resurgence as it showed with the silver medal in the recent Champions Trophy in London, India has a lot to show the world. The team had started well with a win against Ireland, and had played its heart out against defending champion Germany before losing the match in the last four seconds.

There was confidence and clarity in the manner in which the team operated, and coach Roelant Oltmans constantly rotated the players, allowing them to go all out in bursts of speed and energy.

What was gratifying was that India was able to keep its cool and operate sensibly, despite Argentina triggering the alarm bells with a goal in the fourth minute of the fourth quarter, a penalty corner strike by Gonzalo Peillat.

India was sitting in a commanding position till then, thanks to the goals, a penalty corner strike by Chinlensana Knagujam in the eighth minute of the first quarter and by an opportunistic flick by Kothajit Singh in the fifth minute of the second half.

The goalkeeper did stand up to the task, but when Argentina pressed hard with a flurry of penalty corner attempts, many of which passed the video referral challenge, the defenders sprinted out to help him save the citadel better.

Akashdeep Singh eased the tension with two fine runs on the left, and came close to scoring on the second attempt, but his measured scoop hit the post. Earlier, a fine pass from him went a begging.

India could force only two penalty corners and the third was disallowed after a video referral. But, overall the team played as a fine cohesive unit, though there was no denying the fact that it could have attacked better when it had possession and control of the turf.

India has paced itself nicely so far to give itself a fair chance in the quarterfinals, rather than finish fourth and run into a top team like Australia in the first knock-out round.

It will be interesting to see how well the team handles the challenge from the team of coach Oltmans, the Netherlands on Thursday.