The Indian men’s hockey team came out on top with a 1-4 penalty shootout loss to leading Netherlands in a penalty shootout that sealed 2-2 in regular time, all but out of the FIH Pro League title race on Saturday. India remains third with 30 points from 15 games with just one game remaining. The Netherlands leads with 33 points from 13 games, while Olympic champion Belgium is second with 31 points from 14 games with two games remaining.
Throughout the 60 minutes, both world-class teams displayed stunning hockey as India and Holland went up against each other in every division of the game.
While the Indians had the better share of possession, at least in the first two quarters, and attacked from the start, the Dutch relied more on counter-attacks to create scoring chances.
There was also a battle for supremacy between two of the world’s best goalkeepers, PR Sreejesh and Pirmin Blaak.
Sreejesh and Blaak made several good saves in the first two quarters to keep the team alive.
But Holland took the lead in the 10th minute when Dirk de Wilder created a chance on the right flank for Timmen Reyenga, who dribbled past two Indian defenders and then past Sreejesh.
The Indians put severe pressure on the Dutch defence from the start and scored two back-to-back penalty corners in the 10th minute, but the home side’s defence vigilantly prevented the danger.
Abhishek then had two superb chances to put India ahead, but in both cases Braque saved the Netherlands with stunning saves.
Minutes later, India got another penalty but squandered it.
If Blaak is good, then veteran Sreejesh won’t be left behind as he denies Holland’s score.
India levelled in the 22nd minute through another fine shot from Dilpreet Singh. He used Varun Kumar’s passing speed to get the ball to Blaak in the bottom left corner.
The Netherlands won their first penalty corner in the 16th minute and the Indians defended well.
The fourth and final quarters were no different, as both sides matched each other in a stick-and-stick fashion to gain an advantage.
The Netherlands, ranked third in the world, is almost indistinguishable from the world rankings. 4 India.
Holland scored two more penalties with just over two minutes remaining, but both were wasted.
With 23 seconds left to the final whistle, India won three consecutive penalty corners, the last converted by Harmanpreet Singh to tie the game at 2-2 and take the game into a penalty shootout.
But in the penalty shootout, India’s performance was regrettable as Holland scored four of five chances and only Vivek Sagar Prasad scored for the visitors.
India and Netherlands meet again in the second match of the two-legged match on Sunday.
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