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Three up, India go down to Holland
Ivan Crasto |
August 16, 2003 19:36 IST
Last Updated: August 16, 2003 21:53 IST
What can one say about a team that loses a match after being three goals up till just six minutes from the end? That was India's plight against the Netherlands in their opening match of the 25th Champions Trophy hockey tournament, in Amstelveen, near Amsterdam, on Saturday, as they gifted the defending and Olympic champions full points while going down 3-4.
At the last Champions Trophy in Cologne, the Indians were in a similar situation, leading 3-2 with just a minute to go when Matthijs Brouwer scored and snatched a draw for the Dutchmen.
This time too it was another Brouwer, but one who answers to the name of Ronald. With just ten seconds to go for the hooter, he made the best of a disoriented Indian defence to come from nowhere and slot home the winner, sending the home crowd into raptures.
But it was a controversial goal by Floris Evers, in the 70th minute, that allowed the Dutch to draw abreast. Umpire Stephen Brooks of England surprisingly blew for goal even as Baljit Saini cleared the goalbound ball off the line. The Indians protested, but in vain. All they got for their troubles was a second green card for captain Dhanraj Pillay, who had to leave the field as a result.
After a rather scrappy, goalless first session, when goalmouth thrills were few and far between, it was the Indians who gave the Dutch a taste of their own medicine, using the long ball to splinter through the defence and score.
In the 44th minute, a swift counterattack saw India force their fourth penalty corner of the match and Jugraj Singh did well to veer away from the runner and flick the ball high into the Dutch cage.
That was just the shot in the arm the Indians needed. With good promptings from Saini, Viren Rasquinha and Bimal Lakra, the forwards laid siege to the Dutch citadel, which surprisingly backpedalled in an attempt to soak in the pressure. A long through on the right caught the defence napping as Dhanraj Pillay trapped the ball and laid a precise through for the speedy Deepak Thakur to latch on and slam to the far corner of the Dutch goalkeeper Gus Vogels.
Immediately after, India could have added another goal, but Prabhjot Singh failed to connect a fine cross from Baljit Dhillon.
But in the 62nd minute, India again used the right to break away. This time Gagan Ajit Singh tore away and laid the ball for Thakur right in front of the net to complete the formalities.
Three goals to the good and six minutes left was something too good to be true for the Indians. Perhaps they thought they had the match wrapped up. But Rob Reckers scored with a reverse hit much against the run of play to set the stage for what turned out to be a magnificent fightback.
Suddenly the indecisiveness that the Indian defence had revealed early in the first half cropped up. In a last-ditch effort the Dutchmen threw caution to the wind and threw everythng into attack. They forced their seventh penalty corner and Taeke Taekema scored in his inimitable style in the 66th minute.
From then on there was nothing the Indians could do to stop the Dutch juggernaut. With the solid Dilip Tirkey off the field following an injury, Evers made it three-all with less than 40 seconds to go. India were further handicapped when Pillay was sent off for arguing endlessly with the umpire following the controversial equaliser. The home side seized the advantage of superiority in numbers and Brouwer sneaked in to clinch victory.
In the earlier match, Australia rallied to hold Pakistan to a 4-4 draw.