Spirited India go down 1-2 to second-ranked Netherlands

VR Raghunath equalised when he pounced on India’s second penalty corner

It was yet another dramatic night for the Indian hockey team in Rio de Janerio. A crucial goal in the final quarter gave the second-ranked team in the world a 2-1 win over India in their 4th group game.

Having started off with a 3-3 draw against Argentina, the London 2012 silver medallists Netherlands were back on track and that was evident in their approach. High on confidence after their buoyant victory against Argentina, the Indian forward line used their physical presence to intimidate the Dutch forward line.

The first quarter was a pretty dull affair with both teams remaining confined to battles in the midfield. VR Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh were busy as usual and the Dutchmen failed to bother the Indian captain, PR Sreejesh.

Soon, the forward line stepped up and attacked regularly to get the better of the tall Dutch goalkeeper Japp Stockmann. The closing minutes of the second quarter saw the ball exchange ends rapidly along with some patches of individual brilliance from Roelant Oltmans' backline.

Soon after the break, the Netherlands-born coach Roelant Oltmans, who was at the helm of the Dutch team when they won their first Olympic gold 20 years ago, started to use his rolling subs effectively in a bid to find the opening goal.

Sreejesh was brimming with confidence after thwarting a series of attacks from the Dutchmen to defend his fortress but Rogier Hofman found the breakthrough right at the start of the second half. Six minutes later, Vokkaliga Raghunath made no mistake with the second penalty corner that India earned almost immediately to draw level with a thunderous strike. Towards the end of third quarter, India were down to 9 men with both SV Sunil and Raghunath serving a suspension on the sidelines.

As play resumed, the Netherlands upped the ante and earned another penalty corner within first minutes of fourth quarter action. However, PR Sreejesh showed fantastic skills and saved it again to keep the scoreline tied at 1-1.

With 4 minutes left on the clock, the Dutch earned their third penalty corners in quick succession and the Indian captain was finally beaten as Mink Van der Weerden celebrated a big goal that gave his team the lead. As the Netherlands placed themselves in the drivers’ seat with a 2-1 scoreline in their favour, there were no further goals to be seen from either side although India earned five back-to-back penalty corner in the final ten seconds till the final hooter was blown signalling the end of India’s fourth fixture at the Olympic Hockey Centre.

The target now for Team India will be to finish the league stages as high as possible in the points table so as to avoid Australia in the last eight fixture because that is the last thing our fans would want. The next match against Canada holds immense significance as it will ensure India’s qualification.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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