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September 17, 2000
India blitz Argentina in openerJaideep Singh in Sydney
India buried the ghost of Atlanta Games by handing down a 3-0 drubbing to Argentina to lauch the Olympic Games hockey campaign on a rousing note.
Left winger Sameer Dad scored a brace as eight-time Olympic gold medallists India recovered from a trademark indifferent start to assert their supremacy and avenge the loss in the opening match of the 1996 Olympics
Dad whacked in a penalty corner rebound with a tennis-style volley into the cage to open the scoring in the 25th minute and then sent a stinging shot from top of the scoring circle into the boards in the 60th minute to help India avenge the Atlanta defeat.
In between Dad’s two goals, seasoned striker Mukesh Kumar showed his sparkle to drive home on a defence-splitting diagonal cross from Baljit Dhillon with 40 seconds remaining in the first half
The Indian team benefitted from some wayward shooting by their South Amercian rivals, who forced nine penalty corners against India's five, but found goalkeeper Jude Menezes a tough nut to crack.
Memories of Atlanta flashed across the Indian fans as nerves played a big part in India’s fumbling start. They kept losing the ball without much ado and the Argentines raised visions of capitalising on the defensive lapses yet again.
In the last Olympics, it was the defeat at the hands of Argentina which resulted in India's failure to make the semi-finals although they did not lose any other preliminary league match.
Cheered on by a big crowd of Indian supporters which included the star tennis pair of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, the Indians started on a tentative note. Baljit Saini erred in the defence in the sixth minute to concede the first penalty corner to Argentina but Jorge Lombi’s drag-flick was tipped over the crosspiece by Menezes.
Jorge again posed danger in the 10th minute by overlapping into the Indian scoring zone before Dilip Tirkey averted danger with a fine clearance.
India’s first deep foray into the rival territory came during a counter on this clearance as Mukesh latched on to a Saini through ball but was crowded away from the ball.
Reigning Asian Games champion India gained the upper hand after opening the account from their first penalty corner when Dilip Tirkey’s drive was blocked by goalkeeper Pablo Moreira only for the ball to baloon towards Dad, who volleyed it into the cage.
Mukesh bolstered the lead in the 35th minute after Dhillon sprinted in from the 35 yards to to send in a diagonal cross. Mukesh’s fluent drive left the goalkeeper with no chance.
Argentina came back strongly in the second session and forced a spate of penalty corners but their resurgence was spiked by Sameer Dad, who took the sting out of the Argentine resurgence as he sent a reflex shot from the top of circle on Baljit Dhillon's cross past the bewildered goalkeeper. The sudden switch had left the goalkeeper bewildered.
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