The sector 42 Stadium was filled to its capacity of 30,000 and from every corner of the stadium there was only one chant – “Come on India”. In this electrifying cauldron, India tried but faltered again towards the closing stages against the Netherlands in the Punjab Gold Cup final.
Crucial mistakes in the second half and the perennial problem of conceding late goals put paid to India’s hopes as they went down 1-2 to the Dutch, failing to a beak their 13-year-old jinx against the European superpower.
After a goalless first half, skipper Sandeep Singh gave India the lead in the 43rd minute off a penalty stroke but the Dutch fought back superbly and equalised within three minutes through Robbert Kemperman’s field goal. Jeroen Hertzberger sealed the match in Holland’s favour when he capitalised on a brilliant penalty corner routine in the 66th minute to dash India’s hopes of winning the title.
“It was anybody’s game and Holland got better of us. I am satisfied with the way my team played. The only difference was that today we missed some good chances while Holland capitalised opportunities that came their way,” said India’s coach-in-charge Harendra Singh.
“I was waiting for a platform to start my campaign for the World Cup and Commonwealth Games in 2010 and this is a perfect start,” the coach added.
Harendra would be disappointed that his boys failed to deliver the knockout punch. They started on a strong note though the Dutch created the best chance — and the most potent of the first half — in the 26th minute.
Dutch skipper Robert Horst made a superb solo run from the midfield, dodged past three Indian defenders before passing the ball to Robbert Kemperman on the left side of the D. Kemperman sent a measured cross to an unmarked Hertzberger who, however, failed to connect.
That seemed like a wakeup call for the Indians and they took charge of the proceedings after change of ends.
In the 43rd minute, Prabhjot Singh surged ahead from the centre and passed the ball to Shivender Singh at the top of the striking circle. The Mumbai forward dodged past a Dutch defender and just when he was about to take a shot at the goal, he was pushed by another defender. The referee awarded India a penalty stroke and Sandeep Singh, who had missed a similar chance in the league stage, made no mistake this time.
But India couldn’t maintain the lead for long and Kemperman brought Holland back into the game when he deflected the ball home on a good move in the 46th minute to level scores.
But just when the Indians were tiring, Holland came up with a fast break and earned their fourth penalty corner. Hertzberger scored with a powerful hit after the regular hitter played a dummy. India had one more chance when they earned their fifth penalty corner in the last minute but could not capitalise on it.
In the third place match, New Zealand defeated Olympic champions Germany 3-2. Andren Hayward (26), Lloyd Stephenson (50), Joel Baker (70) scored for the Black Sticks while Moritz Furste (17) and Oskar Deecke (51) scored for Germany.