The Indian men’s hockey team got off to a solid start as they beat Olympic Champions Argentina 4-3 in the first practice match at Buenos Aires on Tuesday.
For India, goals were scored by Nilakanta Sharma (16’), Harmanpreet Singh (28’), Rupinder Pal Singh (33’) and Varun Kumar (47’) while Leandro Tolini (35’ and 53’) and Maico Casella (41’) scored for the home team.
While both teams were slow to get off the blocks in the first quarter, India picked up pace in the second quarter with potential circle entries. It was Shilanand Lakra who was responsible for India’s first goal as his assist to Nilakanta Sharma helped him put the ball past Argentina’s goalkeeper in the 16th minute.
With an early 1-0 lead, India pushed the hosts on the backfoot with a strong attack. Though Argentina replied to India’s aggressive show by securing a PC in the following minutes, experienced India custodian PR Sreejesh kept the hosts from scoring an equaliser.
India’s forwardline in the meantime worked on beating the Argentine defence as they set up yet another scoring opportunity when Dilpreet Singh earned India a PC in the 28th minute. Harmanpreet Singh made no mistake in his attempt, as he took India’s lead to 2-0.
Argentina made a strong comeback in the third quarter as they scored in the 32nd minute via Leandro Tolini who was spot on while converting a PC. India were quick to respond as they won a PC too in the 33rd minute through Jaskaran Singh. This time it was experienced India dragflicker Rupinder Pal Singh who struck a brilliant goal ensuring India a 3-1 lead.
Argentina, however, ended the quarter with another goal in the 42nd minute through Casella. Though they vied for an equaliser by earning yet another PC in the following minute, young India goalkeeper Krishan Pathak was alert to stop the goal.
The final quarter remained tense with both teams upping the ante. But India put up a resolute fight to stay in the lead till the final hooter. In the 47th minute, India’s Dilpreet Singh set up a fine PC which was well-struck by Varun Kumar who has returned to the squad after a hamstring injury. Though Argentina’s Tolini scored in the 53rd minute to reduce India’s lead to 4-3, the visiting team put up a spirited defence to end the game in their favour.
India will play their second practice match on Wednesday, 7 April 2021 at 2030 hours IST. The Indian team is scheduled to play six matches against Argentina during their 16-day tour including the double-header FIH Hockey Pro league matches on 11th and 12th April 2021 at 0130 hrs IST.