It took a goal of real flair and class to separate these two teams in a match that twisted and turned as each team enjoyed moments of ascendency followed by moments of intense pressure. In the end, it was Mandeep Singh who scored the winning goal - finding the net in the final minute of play for the second consecutive day.
Game 2: India 4-3 Argentina
Very much like the action from the previous day’s match, the opening quarter was a slow burn. Both teams probed each other’s defence but there was no significant goal mouth action.
Nicolas Keenan for Argentina showed a willingness to attack up the Argentina left-hand side of the pitch but on the whole, there was very little created by either team.
India won the first penalty corner of the game in the second minute of the second quarter. Varun Kumar took the shot, which Tomas Santiago saved well. However, Hardik Singh was on hand to volley the ball home to give his side the lead.
India captain for the weekend Amit Rohidas created his team’s second clear cut chance to score when he burst through the Argentina defence to draw a foul. The ensuing penalty corner gave Jugraj Singh his fourth goal for the senior team – a rasping shot that Santiago barely saw as it crossed his line.
Argentina made their own chances, winning two penalty corners which they were unable to convert. In addition, Martin Ferreiro shot over the bar and the ever-dangerous Keenan also just shot wide.
At half-time, Graham Reid was upbeat about his team’s performance in front of goal but felt that they could improve their possession in the midfield.
Argentina started the second half with verve and intent. Leaving attackers high, Los Leones worked hard to gain possession in the midfield and then set up counter attacks. Argentina thought they had won a penalty stroke in the 32nd minute when Agustin Bugallo looked to have been fouled on his way to goal but the initial decision of a penalty stroke was overturned.
Having survived an Argentina onslaught, India took up the momentum. Mandeep was unlucky not to get on the end of an aerial that eliminated most of the Argentina defence but seconds later India were on the attack again. Harmanpreet had another chance to add to his goal tally with a penalty corner but his shot flew just wide.
In this most intense of games, it was Argentina’s turn to strike next. A quick attack, spear-headed by Martin Ferreiro, led to a penalty corner. Nicolas della Torre was able to send his shot past PR Sreejesh in the India goal to make it 2-1.
Following the Argentina goal, India seemed to lose their structure a little. The visiting side were able to take advantage and bring the scores level when Tomas Domene sent home a lovely penalty stroke after Acosta was fouled in the circle.
With nine minutes left on the clock, momentum changed again. India managed to wrest the lead back when Jugraj scored his second stupendous penalty corner of the day. Santiago had no chance of stopping the shot as it flew past him.
Just one minute later, Jugraj thought he had his hat trick but the shot was disallowed following an umpire’s video referral.
A fantastic piece of skill by Ferreiro saw the forward twist and turn through the India defence. His strength, while in possession of the ball, was superb and the resulting shot was world class. With just over three minutes left, the scores were once more equal.
Just when it seemed that the match was going to shoot-out for the second consecutive day, Jugraj and Mandeep combined to score the most amazing winning goal. Jugraj fired the ball into the circle and Mandeep touched the ball with his back to goal for a telling deflection to add the final, embellishing flourish and to seal the victory.
Player of the Match, Varun Kumar said: “I think the team made a good effort. We fought until the last minute. We created a lot of chances, although there are still things to improve on.”
The result means India move to the top of the FIH Pro League ahead of Netherlands, with Argentina in fourth position, one point behind Germany.
Game 1: India 2-2 Argentina (men) (Argentina won shoot-out 3-1)
The match between two of the most technically skilled teams in the world was an intriguing encounter that saw Argentina unusually dominate possession in the opening half. Los Leones are often on the losing side of possession stats, preferring to score on a swift counter. In the Kalinga Stadium, however, it was the men in blue and white who started the stronger and put India under a lot of pressure in the opening quarter.
With India still pressing for a goal, a direct run by Jarmanpreet saw the player felled by an Argentina defender. The ensuing penalty corner was again well run down by Argentina’s number one runner, Thomas Habif.
With under 60 seconds left on the clock, India managed to gain possession. A quick break saw the ball fall to Mandeep and he fired home the equaliser.
Argentina took the bonus point in the ensuing shoot-out. Keenan, Tomas Domene, Lucas Toscani all scored for Argentina, and Santiago made a fabulous save from Abishek. For India, only Harmanpreet scored his attempt.
The Player of the Match was Argentina’s Matias Rey.
19 March 2022: Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar (IND)
Result: Men’s Match 29
India 2, Argentina 2 (Argentina win shoot-out bonus point 3-1)
Player of the Match, Matias Rey (ARG)
20 March 2022: Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar (IND)
Result: Men’s Match 30
India 4, Argentina 3
Player of the Match, Varun Kumar (IND)
With FIH Media inputs