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You are here: Others Feature Stories Rio Olympics Hockey: India return to winning ways by beating Argentina 2-1

Rio Olympics Hockey: India return to winning ways by beating Argentina 2-1

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Perhaps the most satisfying victory is one, where a team seeks retribution for a past fault, correcting and then fulfilling a desired result. It was one for India today as they beat Argentina 2-1 in a tough Pool B hockey encounter at the Olympics.

It was always going to start as a high-paced encounter with both teams classically skilled and dangerous on the counter, and so it did. There was to be almost no penetrative attacking though for the first five minutes and it took for India to finally make the breakthrough.

SV Sunil’s superbly timed run and close controlled pass found Ramandeep Singh, who found the guile to drive it into an Argentine foot, for the first PC of the game. Rupinder Pal Singh, with three goals already in the Olympics, was up. Juan Vivaldi was up to the task though, and the aftermath of the save India had another PC.

The injection from the corner was minutely off target, but Chinglensana, the receiver had seen it early. Improvising his trap, he set himself up with a touch and drove the shot into the bottom corner. Vivaldi had already effected the dive anticipating a flick, and could only watch helplessly as the ball sailed over his stick and into the goal. India had the lead in the eighth minute.

Soon after, India would incur the first of what would be a series of disciplinary caution in the match; Sardar Singh awarded a green card. Argentina came close with seconds of the quarter left, a cross from the right deflected towards goal by Manuel Brunet, only to clip the post and fall away safely. India kept the lead into the first break.

India were booming off the restart, and in the 19th minute, Akashdeep Singh and Ramandeep were soon at the heart of an attack, combining well, before the former unleashed a cross, that went out, without any contact. At the other end, Sreejesh had his first real action of the game, drawn into a save before Harmanpreet Singh dragged the ball clear. India went down a man again, but this time held together tighter to see off the challenge to halftime and take the lead to the dressing room.

Argentina started moving the ball around more fluidly at the start of the second half, and were looking troublesome for a period, but India’s reliance on the counter was soon going to pay. Against the run of play, Kothajit doubled the lead. India had been favouring the right side in attack, and soon it was Ramandeep and Akashdeep again, combining to cause problems in the heart of Argentina’s defence. A loose ball popped up for Kothajit, who hit it into the corner. India were two to the good!

In the final quarter, the game turned into a clash of egos. Argentina in attack, India in the defence. They defended deep and at times there was no Argentine player in their own half. A host of PCs suddenly arrived for the Argentines. Their first of the game came in the 49th minute, and Gonzalo Peillat who had been waiting for it put it into the board to drop the difference to a single goal.

Almost from the restart, Brunet had another opportunity, Sreejesh swiftly off the line to deny him. And then, came a flurry of PCs for Argentina. India were against it, blocking, rushing and Sreejesh, proving his mettle saving three in a series of four (blocked away by Surender on the line). Interspersed within was an Agusta Mazzilli attempted, pawed away by Sreejesh.

With the nervousness in the stands building up, and the familiar feeling from the game against Germany kicking in, the players held strong. Sardar again and Raghunath started driving the ball into corners, where the skills of Sunil kept the Argentines away from the ball. With resolute ball play, India knocked off the final minutes of the game for a brilliant second victory at the Olympics, one which takes them to second in the Pool B table.

India next play Netherlands on August 11, 2016.