India tasted their first defeat in the Hockey World League Semi-Final on Tuesday. In their fourth Pool B game, India lost to the Netherlands 3-1. Akashdeep Singh scored India’s only goal towards the end of the second quarter.
The format of the tournament sees the first four teams of every pool making the quarterfinals. Pakistan, who lost to India 7-1, escaped to the quarterfinals too and could clash with India in the semis. Unbeaten Netherlands topped group B, India finished second and Canada third.
The Hockey World League Semi-Final is being played at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre. It is exactly in the same Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park where India finished a dismal last in the 2012 London Olympics. India play their quarterfinals on June 22.
But this has been a good tournament for India where a fine combination of youth and experience is winning international matches quite regularly. Several players from this squad are expected to form the core of the Indian team for the 2018 World Cup in Bhubaneswar. India have a new leader in Manpreet Singh.
“These tough games are good for us. Certainly we expected Holland to come hard at us, for, unfortunately, we could not capitalise on the chances that came our way,” said Manpreet.
India were up against a relentless Dutch side on Tuesday. The scoreline could have been worse for India but for the goalkeeper. Akash Chikte had an outstanding match with three terrific saves in the opening 10 minutes of the match on another hot day in London.
India were a goal down in the second minute. Thiery Brinkman’s solo run ended with a crisp reverse hit that left Chikte just short of a bold dive to stop the Dutchman.
— Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) June 20, 2017
The Netherlands tormented the Indians with quicksilver moves and better control of free space. But for a Sardar Singh-Ramandeep Singh move in the 11th minute that tested the Dutch defence to the fullest for the first time in a pacy contest, the Netherlands held sway in the first quarter.
The Netherlands scored off their first penalty corner in the 12th minute. Sander Baart’s clinical finish down the middle left the Indians with little time to react (2-0).
In the 24th minute, Holland made it 3-0. A sizzling move down the middle left Micro Pruijser with a big finish. The lightning speed and the rasping finish at the top of the net were a treat to the sparse gathering of fans.
Akashdeep’s goal in the 27th minute came off a Sardar Singh long ball. The speed of the pass caught the Dutch defence unawares and Akashdeep held his cool and balance to beat a sliding Dutch goalie.
India wasted their three penalty corners. Harmanpreet Singh’s attempts were either too feeble or could not get the better of Dutch goalkeeper Sam Van Der Ven, who too had a great day under the bar.
India had their moments in the match. Sardar played a good role in the midfield and young Sumit showed the intensity expected of a rookie. India could have scored their second goal just before half-time, but Sumit’s goalmouth cross and Ramandeep Singh’s poor trapping wasted the opportunity.
A sloppy Mandeep Singh let India down in the third quarter. Slow to react, the Dutch defence cancelled his reverse hit on top of the Dutch ‘D’.
In an otherwise dull last quarter, India forced two penalty corners but Harmanpreet’s shots were taken well by the Dutch goalkeeper.