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Our forwards wasted chances: Rajinder

Anand Philar | March 03, 2004 14:27 IST

India drew a match that they should have won, said coach Rajinder Singh, reflecting on the 1-1 result against Belgium in the men's Olympic hockey qualifying tournament in Madrid on Tuesday.

"To sum up, our forwards wasted a few chances and also their receiving was not up to the mark. I thought that the half-line did not provide adequate support to the forwards," Rajinder Singh said after the match.

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Rajinder also rued India's failure to convert as many as seven penalty-corners during the match.

"We could convert only one of the eight penalty-corners we received," he said.

"Tonight our forwards just did not settle down. Also I must compliment Belgium for putting up such a good defence. Their goalkeeper too played extremely well in blocking a few shots from our forwards," the coach added.

Skipper Dilip Tirkey felt one mistake in the deep defence led to the Belgian equaliser.

"But for this blemish, our deep defence played extremely well, while the half-line put in a lot of effort. However, had we cashed in on the few chances we got, then we could have won the match," he said.

Looking ahead to the game against Malaysia on Thursday, Rajinder said: "Now that we dropped two crucial points in our first match, we have to win against Malaysia if we are to remain in contention. Obviously, we will be going all out against Malaysia."

After a goalless first-half, India placed in Pool B, scored in the 62st minute when Len Aiyappa converted the team's seventh penalty-corner.

But immediately, the Indians were reduced to 10 as Baljit Singh Dhillon had to leave the field with a yellow card suspension.

Belgium, who had earlier muffed two sitters, equalised in the 64th minute when Charles Vandeweghe found the boards from a counter-attack.

Earlier, the Netherlands turned in a fine second-half performance to outclass South Africa 5-1 (Pool A) while Pakistan pulled up their socks none too soon to flatten Canada 4-2 (Pool B). Poland surprised Great Britain 2-1 (Pool A) and hosts Spain enjoyed a comfortable 6-1 win against Japan (Pool A).

The Indians dominated the first-half and though their superiority did not reflect in terms of goals, it was evident that they had the measure of the Belgians. The difficulty lay in getting through the tight Belgian defence that outnumbered the Indian forwards.

The Indians did penetrate the Belgian circle to force two penalty-corners but could not convert either. Skipper Dilip Tirkey's direct hit was way off the mark and then Gagan Ajit Singh fouled in his attempt to stop Deepak Thakur's push.

The Indian midfield which performed with reasonable assurance but did not acquit itself in ball distribution, saw Baljit Singh Dhillon playing deeper and having to carry the ball. Dhillon executed a couple of brilliant through balls but these passes were not utilized.

At the other end, the Indian defence had relatively quiet time, barring the two occasions when the Belgians made attempts at the goal, where Devesh Chauhan easily parried the shots.

On resumption, the Indians continued to press hard but without success as the forwards repeatedly went out of position and failed to combine.

The Indians also enjoyed some luck as Belgium missed a couple of sure goals.

Towards the close, India forced three penalty-corners on the trot, the last of which was converted by Aiyappa, but the lead was shortlived with Vandeghe neutralising.

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