Hockey

Pro League Hockey | India’s dash rattles the Netherlands

Moment to cherish: The Indian players are on cloud nine after humbling the Dutch.

Moment to cherish: The Indian players are on cloud nine after humbling the Dutch.  

Gurjant’s 13th-second strike eclipses Ajith Singh’s record

A 13th-second goal is a rarity even among rookies in modern hockey. India got one against World No. 3 The Netherlands here on Saturday to kickstart its Pro League campaign on a positive note. It was the first of five goals India struck in its 5-2 win against the Dutch, a result even the most ardent fans wouldn’t have predicted.

Quick off the blocks

It was the fastest-ever goal by India, overshadowing Ajit Singh’s 15th-second strike against Argentina at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. It came against a full-strength, well-prepared, on-the-offensive Dutch side that is looking to break its Olympic gold jinx at Tokyo. It was scored by a player — Gurjant Singh — who had forced his way into the side after more than year.

This was India’s first competitive game against a team ranked higher since the 2018 World Cup quarterfinal game against the same opponent. Through 2019, the team spent more time training than actually competing. That seemed to have borne fruit for Graham Reid and his charges.

The quick goal — courtesy a speedy run from Mandeep Singh and his give-and-take with Gurjant — and the aggressive start was not the only thing different in this Indian side. The entire structure was unlike what was seen the last time around. Reid had said he was not one to sit back and protect a lead and the team mirrored his philosophy. The opener only led to India increasing pressure on the Dutch defence and it finally paid off when Rupinder Pal Singh flicked to make it 2-0.

The Dutch gradually came back in the second quarter, levelling scores by the end of it and appearing to take control of the game. Both coach Max Caldas and Reid admitted it was the best period of play for the visitors.

Controlling the midfield was the key and Manpreet, Vivek Prasad and Lalit Upadhyay did well in this department. The biggest advantage for India was its referrals. In a game as fast and subjective, India got every one of its five reviews correct, four of them resulting in penalty corners and two in goals.

Sunday’s game would be a different ballgame.

The result: India 5 (Rupinder Pal Singh 2, Gurjant Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Upadhyay) bt Netherlands 2 (Jeroen Hertzberger, Jip Janssen).

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 3:19:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/hockey/pro-league-hockey-indias-dash-rattles-the-netherlands/article30595984.ece

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