India thrash Netherlands 5-2 in FIH Hockey Pro League debut
On Saturday, a completely transformed avatar of the Indian team came to the fore as the hosts hammered world No 3 Netherlands 5-2 on their Pro League debut.Updated: Jan 18, 2020 23:14 IST
On the eve of the match between India and the Netherlands, the talk in the opposing camps—from India chief coach Graham Reid to Dutch midfielder Seve van Ass—was about the unpredictability of the India hockey team. “You never know which Indian team will turn up,” van Ass had said.
On Saturday, a completely transformed avatar of the Indian team came to the fore as the hosts hammered world No 3 Netherlands 5-2 on their Pro League debut. Reid passed his first real test against a top team with flying colours as Manpreet Singh’s men bagged three points in the 2020 edition opener.
It was a high-intensity game, with relentless attacks from India putting the 2018 World Cup finalists under pressure from the start. “We had got the go-ahead from our coach to go on the offensive from the start,” said drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh, who scored a brace (12th and 46th minutes). Gurjant Singh (1st), Mandeep Singh (34th) and Man-of-the-Match Lalit Upadhyay (36th) scored a goal each, while Jip Janssen (14th) and Jeroen Hertzberger (28th) scored for the visitors at the Kalinga Stadium here.
The Indian forwards were backed by a defence which performed brilliantly, letting the Netherlands score only once from nine penalty corners. First rusher Amit Rohidas was impeccable in thwarting Dutch chances with goalkeeper PR Sreejesh keeping the ball out when Rohidas missed. World No 5 India, on the other hand, converted two of their seven penalty corners.
Just 13 seconds into the match, India stunned the visitors with Mandeep poaching the ball immediately after pushback by the Dutch. Mandeep’s one-two with Gurjant resulted in an incredible start for India with the latter firing past Netherlands goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak to finish off a sensational attack. Gurjant’s goal is the fastest ever by an Indian, surpassing Ajit Singh’s 1976 record of 15 seconds. However, HT could not independently verify the statistics as the international hockey federation (FIH) did not maintain these records earlier.
India rocked the visitors again with Rupinder converting India’s first set-piece to take a 2-0 lead.
Two minutes later, the Dutch found a response thanks to Janssen’s drag-flick that rattled the bottom left corner.
The Dutch looked more like a top team in the second quarter as they pressed the Indian defence back resulting in Hertzberger’s field goal three minutes from halftime, levelling the contest at 2-2.
The Europeans tried to continue the momentum but India looked very much in control in the second half, threatening more goals by playing give-and-go hockey and creating more chances.
Four minutes into the second half, skipper Manpreet created a brilliant ball, pushing it to Mandeep in the striking circle, whose powerful hit was enough to give India the lead again (3-2).
India restored their two-goal cushion when an unmarked Upadhyay tapped the ball into an unguarded net after Harmanpreet Singh drew the Dutch defenders and goalkeeper towards him.
Rupinder rubbed more salt into the visitors’ wounds when he scored his second. His lethal flick hit the board to put India 5-2 ahead.