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We conceded soft penalty-corner goals: Harendra

Anand Philar | January 09, 2004 20:07 IST

Smarting from the second successive defeat at the 13th Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament, coach Harendra Singh said penalty-corners continue to be the bane of Indian hockey.

"Modern hockey is all about penalty-corners, both taking and defending. All the six goals against India have come from conversions and I do agree that we need to work on defending penalty-corners," Harendra said after India's 2-3 loss to Pakistan on Friday.

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Skipper Dhanraj Pillay, endorsing Harendra's view, said: "Pakistan have the world's best penalty-corner specialist and today he made all the difference.

"But I feel that this young Indian team has plenty of potential. There are about six youngsters in this team whom I feel can become top class players with some maturity that will come only from exposure and experience."

Harendra, however, said today's defeat is no reflection on the Indian team. "I thought we played extremely well in the first half and early in the second," he said.

"Our midfielders, especially Ignace Tirkey, were outstanding. Ignace totally blocked Pakistani right-winger Rehan Butt who is such a dangerous player.

"But we committed some errors in the midfield and again conceded some soft penalty-corner goals."

About the decision to bring on 20-year old Rajpal Singh for Sandeep Michael midway trough the first-half, which led to India's second goal, Harendra said: "Sandeep was not moving well and I thought of trying out Rajpal.

"I am happy that the very first time he touched the ball he scored. The substitution was also in keeping with my objective of trying out all the players in this tournament."

For the game against Pakistan, Harendra dropped forward Tushar Khandekar and midfielder Girish Pimpale for Rajpal and Hari Prasad.

Ignace Tirkey, who, apart from checking Butt did the spadework for the second Indian goal, said: "I have been playing against Rehan for sometime now. I have now understood his style of play. He tends to do the inside dodge and I was able to anticipate."

Rajpal, who played well in short bursts, was obviously happy to have scored his first international goal at the senior level.

"The fact that I scored my first goal in a senior tournament against Pakistan has made me more happy," said the Chandigarh-based Indian Oil player.

Pakistan Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans was far from pleased with his team's overall performance. "I have been training the team for only three weeks now. I have introduced some changes in their style of play, but it will take some time for the players to get used to it," he said, with an obvious reference to the swift ball rotation and possession hockey that the Pakistanis have been playing in this tournament.

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