Back in the Olympics after a hiatus of eight years,past masters of the game India produced a valiant fightback in the second-half before losing 2-3 to world number three The Netherlands in their opening Group B match of the men’s hockey competition here today.
Playing tentatively and lacking any cohesion in their attacks,world ranked 10th India conceded two goals in the first session,but capitalised on two slim chances in the second half to draw 2-2 parity.
But India’s joy was shortlived as The Netherlands restored their lead minutes later by converting a penalty corner.
The Indian players’ nerves were on display in their opening match,where all but two of their players were making the maiden appearance in Olympic Games.
India mounted the first raid in the fifth minute to force their only penalty corner of the match,which V R Raghunath failed capitalise on in the absence of ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh.
Raghunath had a good chance to put India ahead when his initial shot rebounded back to him off an onrushing defender’s stick. He had plenty of space to seize control of the ball and have another shot at the target with the defenders a bit ruffled,but he tried a shot on the moving ball and wasted the opportunity.
The Netherlands then held sway for an extended period as the Indian players’ nerves were on display.
The Indians seemed nervous in their tackling and passing,but the defenders managed to keep the Dutch strikers at bay until the 20th minute.
Robert van der Horst opened the scoring for The Netherlands as he created space and dribbled in to shoot from the top of circle that beat Indian goalkeeper Bharat Chetri all ends up.
Continuing to play a defensive game,India only managed to get into the rival circle just one more time in the first session and even then failed to have a shot at the goal.
The Dutch continued to exert pressure and got their second goal from a penalty corner in the 28th minute when Roderick Weusthof’s low flick trickled over the goalline after hitting Manpreet Singh’s stick.
The Indian goal had a narrow shave soon after the resumption of play before they came out of their shell and launched some attacks,and managed to breach the Dutch citadel twice.
India’s fightback began in the 45th minute when Tushar Khandekar’s cross from the left flank struck the far post and rebounded into the circle. An opportunist Dharamvir Singh capitalised on the chance by beating goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann with a firm shot.
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 India’s second goal.
Penalty corner specialist Mink van der Weerden reclaimed the lead for The Netherlands when he sent in a drag flick just under the cross-bar.
Thereafter,the Indian defenders held off a number of brisk Dutch raids. To add to India’s misery,the strikers failed to have another cracking shot at the rival goal despite breaking into the circle a few times looking for the equaliser.
In another Group B match earlier,South Korea caused aupset of sorts by defeating New Zealand 2-0.
India will next New Zealand in their second Group B match on Wednesday,while the Dutch will be up against Belgium the same day.