India took the fight to the Netherlands, but failed to capitalise on a string of penalty corner chances after the hooter, and settled for a 1-2 defeat in the Group B encounter at the Olympic hockey centre on Thursday.
It was heartening to see the team, which was reduced to nine players at one stage, press hard in the closing minutes, dispensing with the services of goalkeeper P. R. Sreejesh and infusing additional force upfront.
The ploy almost worked as India retained possession and pressed the Dutch back on its own half. "You cannot consider the penalty corners in the end as five, it was one that kept repeating. B,ut I agree that we need to convert our chances against such top teams," captain Sreejesh said.
Coach Roelant Oltmans also spoke on similar lines and said that the team deserved credit for fighting so well against top teams like Germany and Holland. "We are still lacking in some areas. But the team did well. That is encouraging for the upcoming matches," Oltmans observed. "I am proud how we made it tough for such top teams, who are ranked better than us."
He revealed that the team was used to competing without the goalkeeper in the closing stages so as to push hard for the goal, and had performed credibly in similar circumstances in the six-nation tournament in Spain.
"It does not matter if we lose 1-2 or 1-3. So, it is better to take the chance," Sreejesh said.
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In a barren first quarter, in which both the teams were happy to play the ball around without really pushing hard, goalkeeper Sreejesh was sharp as usual to stop the stray attempts.
However, two minutes after the resumption, the Dutch converted its first penalty corner to bring the match alive. Rogier Hofman smacked the ball home after the first shot had rebounded off the goalkeeper’s pad. India was up to the task, and it responded with a goal six-minutes later when V. R. Raghunath converted from a penalty corner.
The momentum was in India’s favour at this stage, but two quick yellow cards to Raghunath and S. V. Sunil took the sting out of the India's game.
The Dutch attacked in numbers and a smart strike from Mink van der Weerden — from the team's fourth penalty corner —put his team ahead. India, despite a late flourosh, failed to find the equaliser.
With Australia and Britain floating dangerously low in the other group, it may not be bad for India to finish third in the group. The coach and the captain, however, were quick to point out that all teams at the quarterfinal stage will pack a punch.
The result: The Netherlands 2 (Rogier Hofman, Mink van der Weerden) beatt India 1 (V. Raghunath).
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