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September 21, 2000
Argentina-Poland engage in slugfestThe Rediff Team
In a game that would have been more at home in a boxing ring than in a hockey field, Poland and Argentina slugged away at each other and ended up with honours even, in more senses than one.
The teams fought each other to a 5-5 draw, the final scoreline a just reflection on a game that was topped a very good first half with an absolutely brilliant second session.
The Argentines, who had opened their campaign with a 2-0 loss to India, came out firing on all cylinders, and the first half, characterised by fast and furious play spanning the length of the field, saw the men in blue take more of the possession.
The Argentines excelled particularly in the midfield, keeping tight control of the ball and initiating a series of hostile moves that sought to put star striker Jorge Lombi on the fast track to goal.
Poland for its part fought desperately to keep the Argentines at bay -- and given the tenor of the game, it was no surprise that Argentina at the breather was leading by the odd goal in three.
As early as the 6th minute of the first half, Lombi struck with a well taken penalty corner -- a carpet drive that left the Polish goalkeeper, who seemed to be anticipating that Lombi would go airborne, stranded.
Vila Rodrigo almost made it 2-0 for the Argentines, a minute later, but his try at goal was saved by the hard-working Polish defence.
The early goal changed the course of the match, with Poland throwing everything it had into a flat-out attack. The Argentines, who appear to bring some of their famed footballing tactics to the hockey field, quickly changed their game to long passes and aerial balls in a bid to keep the Polish attackers from camping in the Argentine D.
When Lombi struck again, with another carpet drive off a penalty corner in the 23rd minute, it was very much against the run of play, Poland having dominated for a good part of that period. But the Poles kept plugging away, and Lukasz Wybieralski got away with a loose ball which he piloted into the D and, unchallenged thanks to a horrible defensive mixup from the Argentines, smashed home.
Six minutes into the second half, it was Lombi again, rounding off his hat-trick off a penalty corner, to take Argentina to a seemingly impregnable 3-1 lead.
From then on, Poland took charge in a furious, neck of nothing assault that saw them pull one back in the 45th minute, through Piotr Mikula's clincal hit off a penalty that blasted through the defences and left the goalkeeper stranded.
Piotr got into the act again in the 51st minute, slamming home after being put through, entering the D and hitting on the dead run. Parity restored, the intensity was upped a notch and, in the 60th minute, Pawel Jakubiak converted off a penalty to put Poland into the lead for the first time.
Ten minutes of play left and just when the Argentines looked a tiring, dispirited bunch, Lombi added to his tally with a display of more heroics. A dazzling run forced the penalty corner, he stepped forward to take it -- and after having, earlier, slotted home with three carpet drives, decided to go aerial. The goalkeeper was anticipating another one screaming along the turf, and was caught totally off guard when Lombi scooped it into the net high.
In the 66th minute, it was Lombi again, though the goal stands in the name of Santiago Capurro. Again, it came off a penalty. This time, the Argentine defence concentrated all its attention on Lombi, who stepped up to take the strike. Lombi hit hard and true, the ball rebounded off a defender's stick and Santiago, who was standing within a foot of the goal, completely unmarked by a Polish defence too intent on their nemisis, slammed it home to take Argentina back into the lead, 5-4, with less than four minutes left on the clock.
That goal, at that time, would have been the killer for most teams. But not the Poles -- streaming into the Argentine half, with everyone but the goalkeeper fuelling their attack, the Poles harassed the Argentine defence and, in the 67th minute, Rafal Grotowski managed to find just enough space -- how he managed, is a mystery, given that at the time, 10 Argentines and a few Poles were all packed into the D -- to hammer home.
Seven goals had been struck in the second half, 10 overall, and at the end of all the mayhem, the two teams were back where they started from.
The crowd, though, was not complaining. The way the game went, the crowd wouldn't have complained even if they had been asked to pay double to watch this one.
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