India registered their second win in as many days against Netherlands after staging a remarkable recovery in Bhubaneshwar on Sunday. The hosts won 3-1 in the shootout after scoring two second-half goals to level scores.
India looked the better side for most of the first half but when the teams returned to their dugouts at half-time, the Netherlands were leading 3-1.
The hosts had got through the last ten minutes of the second quarter with their skipper Manpreet Singh sitting out due to a 10-minute penalty for a yellow card after a dangerous tackle. So in a sense, even the 3-1 scoreline was a bit of a success.
It was still a bit of a mountain to climb against one of the best sides in the world. But that doesn’t seem to deter the Indian team anymore. From being a side that would often give it away in the end, India seem to now be wanting to become one that can do the opposite to the opposition.
In the first match on Saturday, India had scored within 15 seconds but today, the wait for a goal was longer. And it was the Dutch that drew first blood.
Mink van der Weerden (24’) scored from the penalty corner, flicking into the roof of the net from the top of the circle. The goalkeeper had no chance.
But even before we could catch our breath, Lalit Upadhyay (26’) has equalised for India with a brilliant field goal. He had missed a few chances early in the game but he made no mistake from close quarters.
The game refused to settle though as the Dutch struck twice in the next minute. Jeroen Hertzberger (26’) and Bjorn Kellerman (26’) scored solid field goals to peg India back. Hockey games can change in an instant but no one wants to be down two goals.
Around the 35-minute mark, Manpreet got the yellow card and a ten-minute penalty to go with it. India defended deep and adopted a ‘park-the-bus’ strategy but the Dutch were strangely passive in this period. With India down a man, one would have expected them to run at the hosts a little bit more but they simply chose to hang back.
The Netherlands seemed to start the second half better too but it was the Indians who got the first goal of the second half. Mandeep Singh (50’) was alert to the rebound opportunity after a PC and India halved the deficit.
Ten minutes left, one goal to get. But India didn’t need that long. In the 54th minute, Rupinder Singh’s ferocious drag flick levelled things up. It was straight down the middle but no one was going to risk stopping it.
The last few minutes were a scramble as both sides went looking for a winner but in the end, it went to the shootout. India came out on top as the Dutch just didn’t hit the target often enough.
India have ended up taking two points from this clash after tying the game at 3-3 before winning the shoot-out. Including yesterday’s result, that makes it five points out of a possible six for India from their first two FIH Hockey Pro League matches. It doesn’t get better.
Such performances will boost the confidence of the Indian players and in an Olympic year, that can sometimes prove to be the vital difference.