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Spain too reign on India

Anand Philar | January 16, 2004 16:23 IST

Spain dashed India's hopes of chalking up their first victory with a decisive 4-1 drubbing in the seven-nation Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

The defeat, their fifth in six matches, signalled the end of India's run in the tournament as they finished seventh and last at the conclusion of their league campaign with just one point from the draw with Malaysia.

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India will take no further part in the tournament that concludes on Sunday, when the classification matches for 1-6 positions will be played.

Spain, for whom Santiago Freixa (6th minute), Xavier Ribas (21st), Victor Sojo (42nd) and Juan Escarre (69th) scored, completed their league fixtures with eight points.

The Indians, whose only goal came in the 66th minute when Len Aiyappa converted the fourth penalty corner, just did not have the firepower to score nor a defence that could check the fleet-footed Spanish forwards.

Midfield errors and an unforgiveable miss by Sandeep Michael as early as the third minute dashed India's hopes. The decision to field an obviously unfit Baljit Singh Dhillon, who is nursing a fractured nose, made little difference.

The Spaniards took full advantage of these lapses and though goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza managed to block three good attempts, the European outfit still slotted in two penalty-corner goals to take the breather with a 2-0 lead.

India were left to rue the lapse on part of Michael, who could not score from a one-on-one situation with goalkeeper Bernardino Herrera following a counter-attack. Vikram Pillay scrambled the ball upfield and fed Dhillon, who unleashed a great left-to-right diagonal pass for Michael. The forward, left free, merely pushed the ball into Herrera, and with that went India's best scoring chance.

The Indians did force two penalty-corners late in the first-half, but it was obvious that they just did not have the right ideas to convert.

Dhillon and Aiyappa essayed weak drag-flicks that Herrera easily stopped in a deceptively casual manner.

After the let-off by Michael, the Spaniards began to assert themselves with a series of carefully crafted moves that probed the Indian defence.

Spain earned a penalty-corner when Pol Amat took a hard crack at goal following a swift counter-attack. D'Souza blocked the ball at the expense of another penalty-corner, which Freixa converted.

Spain continued to put pressure on the Indian defence but D'Souza took some solid blows on his body to deny the rampaging opposition forwards further success.

But the persistent Spaniards finally scored from their fifth penalty corner, when Ribas drag-flicked into the net.

If the Indian midfield and deep defence appeared shaky, then it was no better upfront. Both Arjun Halappa and Michael were tightly marked and made no impression. Thus, the Indian attacks were blunted.

Seven minutes into the second-half, Spain virtually sealed the match when Sojo finished a right-wing counter-attack with a reverse flick past a fallen D'Souza.

Down 0-3, goalkeeper Kamldeep Singh replaced D'Souza in the 42nd minute, but by then, the Indians had suffered irrepairable damage.

The Indians finally showed some urgency and purpose in their moves. However, Vikram Pillay twice missed from close and then Rajpal Singh's cross from the right, across the goalmouth, went unattended by both Michael and Halappa.

A minute from the end, Juan Escarre found the boards from yet another counter-attack to snuff out whatever was left in the Indian challenge.

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