The Netherlands prevails 3-2 in a gripping encounter

Several heart-warming moments notwithstanding, India went down 2-3 to the Netherlands in a Group ‘B’ preliminary round hockey match on Monday. Even as the Dutch raced away to a 2-0 lead in the first half, India sprung back with gumption in the second session.

India began with remarkable fluidity and discipline — traits that have contributed to the team’s improved performances in the recent past. The notorious brittleness of the backline, however, came back to haunt India again.

S.V. Sunil launched the first attacking move of significance when he sped along the right flank. A long corner later, India found itself in the ‘D’ where it was rewarded with a penalty corner.

Dharamvir Singh’s strike was halted by a tenacious Dutch defence.

The Netherlands, ruthless in intent and execution, stormed the Indian citadel. Even as a goal loomed, V.R. Raghunath made a neat, sliding tackle to delay the inevitable. Skipper Bharat Chetri led from the front, making sharp saves to twice deny the dangerous Teun de Nooijer. India, then, produced a fine run down the middle but Shivendra Singh’s back-flick went wide.

Sneaking ahead

The Dutch soon sneaked ahead as an unmarked Robert van der Horst slammed home in the 20th minute. With India’s pair of forwards being countered by five rival defenders, the team tried to make capital of counterattacks.

But, the Dutch pressed the throttle and made it 2-0 in the 29th minute. Roderick Weusthof dragged in the short corner that trickled in off Manpreet Singh’s stick.

A fast-paced first session was overshadowed by a more gripping second half. India turned up as a different unit, blending defensive efficiency with hectic forays.

Much to the delight of the large number of Indian fans who had turned up, the side pulled one back in the 45th minute. Dharmavir sent the ball into an open goal after it deflected off the post.

Three minutes later, India restored parity through a piece of brilliant manoeuvring from G.S. Chandi. Dodging the rival defenders, he passed the ball to Shivendra. The latter had no trouble slotting it home.

Stunning riposte

Just when India’s spirits sky-rocketed, the Dutch came up with a stunning riposte in the 51st minute: Mink van der Weerden converting a penalty corner with a ferocious drag flick.

The rest of the session panned out with India trying frantically to get back on level footing. The Netherlands prevailed in the end, but only just.

The results:

Group ‘B’: The Netherlands 3 (Robert van der Horst, Roderick Weusthof, Mink van der Weerden) bt India 2 (Dharamvir Singh, Shivendra Singh).

Group ‘A’: South Korea bt New Zealand 2-0; Australia bt South Africa 6-0; Spain drew with Pakistan 1-1.

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