India vs Argentina: Young Indians impress but Peillat shows his class
Stifling heat and rain
The rain had played a huge part when India faced Argentina last in Bhubaneswar in December. History repeated itself, in part, when thunder and lightning came down hard in the fourth quarter forcing a suspension with an exuberant Indian side trailing the Olympic champions 2-3.
Prior to the break, a bunch of Indian teenagers gave the Olympic champions a run for their money amidst the stifling heat at the Azlan Shah stadium. After the suspension, India seemed to lose their way and their momentum, reduced to 10 men with Sumit Kumar getting a yellow card.
Talwinder Singh's flick in the dying seconds was deflected wide and India lost the match but made their mark with a higher possession percentage and more shots on goal against a higher ranked team.
First quarter: India impress but Argentina score
Argentina started with a full-strength squad. There was a cagey opening with both teams testing each other out in the opening minutes.
If Argentina had expected Sardar Singh's team to be in awe of their status, they were gravely mistaken.
With speed and skill, the Indian's penetrated the Argentine midfield with quick, short passes and displayed good intent. Argentina, on the other hand, looked calm and composed willing to wait and watch for an opportunity.
Goalkeeper Manuel Vivaldi made no less than three saves to deny India taking the lead. He blocked a superb shot by Sanjeep Xess and narrowed the angle and cleared after a great speedy run by Sumit Kumar. Talwinder Singh missed a sitter after a long scoop found him right in front of the goalkeeper but Talwinder found Vivaldi's body instead of the net.
India played with brisk passes while Argentina tried long balls. Possession was 60-40 in favor of India in the first quarter.
Gonzalo Peillat shows his class
Argentina got the chance they were looking for with SK Uthappa giving away a soft penalty corner.
Amit Rohidas was the runner and made a block off the first penalty corner but the ball went off his foot and Gonzalo Peillat made no mistake with the second penalty corner beating Krishan Pathak in goal.
Surender Kumar got a green card at the beginning of the second quarter and Gonzalo Peillat scored yet again off the resultant penalty corner and just like that, the Argentines were 2-0 up.
Amit Rohidas India's hero in the battle of penalty corners
India's first penalty corner was blocked by Vivaldi and they won another right away with the same result. Varun Kumar's shots failed to find the net.
Amit Rohidas, however, broke the deadlock and managed to score off the third penalty corner.
Argentina came back right away and earned a penalty corner. Peillat was blocked off this time by denying him a hat-trick. Two soft penalty corners were conceded by India's young defenders trying to lunge for the ball rather than stay calm.
In the third quarter, Amit Rohidas converted a penalty corner yet again, and India equalized.
Smacking the ball into the penalty area hoping to get a foot seemed Argentina's ploy. They succeeded and Gonzalo Peillat got the better of Suraj Karkera who replaced Krishan Pathak in the Indian goal. Peillat scored his third and Argentina were back in front.
Argentina kept things calm at the end of the third quarter playing possession hockey and ensured that they maintained their 3-2 lead.
Lucas Villa was brilliant in the fourth quarter creating an opportunity for a penalty corner but the Indians were lucky that the ball was badly trapped and Peillat couldn't score his fourth.
Positives for India and lessons learned
Great speed and skill upfront were displayed by India who created chances with deft passes. Amit Rohidas showed great skill in his penalty corner conversions and will be the player to watch out for as the tournament progresses.
Overall, the team looked confident facing up to a far superior side and refused to be bogged down.
The young defenders, however, erred in being over-enthusiastic in trying to engage in tackles and giving away penalty corners instead of staying calm in front of goal.
India will have to keep these points in mind as they face England tomorrow, hoping for a better result.