FIH Pro League: India comeback from the dead, beat Netherlands in shootout
When the going got tough, Reid’s boys did not cower, instead applied pressure on the opponents to earn a sensational come-from-behind 3-3 (3-1) victory via penalty shootout against a top team like the Netherlands.Updated: Jan 19, 2020 22:43 IST
Normally when the chips are down, the Indian hockey team is known to crack. But that’s not a characteristic you associate with chief coach Graham Reid and nor does he want it to be his team’s. In fact quite the opposite happened at the Kalinga Stadium on Sunday evening. When the going got tough, Reid’s boys did not cower, instead applied pressure on the opponents to earn a sensational come-from-behind 3-3 (3-1) victory via penalty shootout against a top team like the Netherlands.
After the high of a 5-2 win on Saturday, the hosts were trailing 1-3 in their second Pro League match against the Netherlands with 10 minutes to go for the final hooter. It looked as if the same inconsistent Indian team of old had turned up. But Reid has made his team brave enough to take risks and wants his players to press the opponents all the time and that’s exactly what they did.
India earned two penalty-corners in the space of four minutes (51st and 55th) to convert both and level the contest. And in the shootout, the seasoned PR Sreejesh did his job to perfection, disallowing three out of four attempts—only Mirco Pruijser scored—to hand India back-to-back wins. Vivek Prasad, Gurjant Singh and Akashdeep Singh converted their opportunities while Rupinder Pal Singh and Harmanpreet Singh failed during the shootout.
“A couple of years back, we would have conceded more goals had we been down in a match. But players are getting matured and experienced with every match and that’s why you see the change in attitude of the team,” said Player of the Match Rupinder.
India earned two points from the win. A regulation time victory earns a team three points while a shootout win gives them two. Netherlands bagged a point for drawing in regulation time. India now top the nine-team standings with five points.
India had the better of the early chances with forward Lalit Upadhyay having two close opportunities. However, it was the Netherlands who opened the scoring when Mink van der Weerden (23rd) converted their first penalty-corner by flicking into the roof of the net from the top of the circle.
India found an immediate response when Upadhyay (25th) poached the ball from the Dutch defence and slotted home from close range.
Goalkeeper Krishan Pathak had a terrible time in the second quarter as two quick field goals put the Dutch ahead once again. First Jeroen Hertzberger (26th) scooped home from close. A minute later Bjorn Kellerman (27th) fired home another field goal before the break.
India’s woes doubled immediately in the second half as skipper Manpreet Singh received a yellow card for a hard tackle and was sent off for 10 minutes. The hosts were lucky that they managed the entire third quarter without conceding despite a man down. Sreejesh, back in the goal for the third quarter, made some excellent saves.
Nine minutes from the final hooter India found a foot in the Dutch circle to win a penalty-corner and Harmanpreet Singh sent a low flick towards the goal. Dutch ’keeper Sam van der Ven made the save but Mandeep Singh (51st) fired in the rebound.
Rupinder levelled the scores by sending a ferocious flick down the middle, too powerful for van der Ven, setting up the shootout.
“What was good today was that we struggled. And to keep doing better and improve you have to struggle because that’s how you learn. We learnt some stuff and hopefully some good will come out of it,” said Reid. “We still have to work on one-on-one tackling but the boys did well. Under pressure they pressed the opponents and that is how the approach should be. The best teams create chances out of nothing that’s what they did today and under pressure.”