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India pay dearly for defensive lapses

August 16, 2004 01:04 IST

Sunday's match results

Holland 3 - 1 India
Germany 2 - 1 Pakistan
South Korea 1 - 1 Spain
Argentina 1 - 2 South Africa
Australia 4 - 1 New Zealand

India paid dearly for defensive lapses as they went down 1-3 to defending champions The Netherlands in Group B in their opening match in the men's Olympic hockey tournament in Athens on Sunday.

Sandeep Singh's error as he failed to cleanly trap the ball just on top of the circle in the second minute allowed Marten Eikelboon to open the scoring for the Dutch.

Then 15 minutes into the second half Harpal Singh failed to clear a long ball and Teun de Nooijer pounced on the opportunity to make it 2-0.

Taeke Taekema scored in the 54th minute from a penalty-corner, awarded after Harpal committed a foot foul inside the circle, to make it 3-0 before India got a consolation goal through Gagan Ajit Singh with a minute to go for the hooter.

The defeat came as a huge jolt to the eight-time Olympic champions, looking to win a medal since the last gold they won in 1980 at Moscow. Though they did well to contain their hard-running opponents, they lacked the wherewithal to create a serious impression on the Dutch goal. Had goalkeeper Adrain D'Souza, who was preferred over the experienced Devesh Chauhan, not made some smart saves, the margin of defeat could well have read like a tennis scoreline.

But India were not outplayed as the scoreline may suggest. They too had their moments of ascendancy but poor finishing was their undoing. From their first penalty-corner in the 11th minute Sandeep Singh's powerful drag flick looked a goal all the way but Holland goalkeeper Guus Vogels did well to get his stick in the way of the rising ball.

Backed by good promptings from Viren Rasquinha in the midfield, Gagan Ajit Singh, Deepak Thakur and Dhanraj Pillay also worked tirelessly to splinter through but were crowded out by the Dutch defenders.

India suffered a setback in the 54th minute when Dilip Tirkey was forced to leave the field after being hit on the head by a Taekema shot from a set-piece penalty-corner exercise that deflected off the stick of William Xalco.

The Indians need to beat South Africa, who beat Argentina 2-1 in an earlier match, in their next outing on Tuesday entertain any hopes of making it to the semi-finals.

In other matches of the day, Australia thrashed New Zealand 4-1 in Pool B while in Pool A, Germany beat Pakistan 2-1, Korea drew with Spain 1-1 and Great Britain beat Egypt 3-1.

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