They might have ended on the losing side,after a rusty start and a racy comeback,but Indian hockey played earned royal praise on Monday after their first group encounter when Crown Prince Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands who was in attendance at the Riverbank Arena called it an amazing encounter between two teams with top-fit people.
India,clearly the underdogs in their return to Olympics hockey after eight years,trailed 0-2 at the break,but came back strongly to equalise,though they couldnt secure an upset here,finishing with 3-2 in arrears.
It was a beautiful game to watch and,at the end,it was very tight. The Indians were really fighting back and were physically very strong and defended well,the heir to the throne said,adding that the Dutch were lucky when the final whistle blew. Though a couple of early chances went abegging,with the World No. 3 side taking what looked like a scary lead,and a rout to follow,Indians equalised in the second half.
India fought back in the 45th minute when Tushar Khandekars cross from the left struck the far post and rebounded to an opportunist Dharamvir Singh,who beat the goal-keeper. Three minutes later India were level at 2-2 when Gurwinder Chandi picked up a short pass from Gurbaz Singh inside the circle and dribbled past a defender before pushing the ball towards Shivendra Singh,who tapped in for Indias second goal.
Our forward line was poor and we must improve on our finishing, Sardara Singh said,echoing his coachs thoughts on the early missed chances which could have turned the scene around. And god knows what might have been,as they like to say here. We made a good comeback in the second half,coming back from 2-0 down. We took our chances and felt more in control, the midfield lynchpin,said.
Three points conceded,and none in their kitty,yet Indians are sensing some sort of a turnaround here. Having missed an Olympics disastrously,and rebuilt under a coach who uses the Indian flair and style as reinforcing factors,they are now keen on taking on New Zealand.
The penalty denied in the dying moments was one factor though Indias Australian coach was determined to still go back to the drawing board and iron out the flawed chances. Dutch great Teun de Nooijer playing in his fifth Olympics conceded that the Dutch werent at their very best,admitting that India did put them under pressure.