Veteran goalkeeper PR Sreejesh turned out to be the saviour as the Indian men's hockey team defeated world number one Netherlands 4-2 via a shoot-out in the FIH Pro League in Bhubaneswar on Sunday.
Sreejesh made three fine saves in the shoot-out to hand India the bonus two points after both the teams were locked at 2-2 at the end of regulation 60 minutes. Netherlands took one points from the match. In the shoot-out, skipper Harmanpreet Singh, Sukhjeet Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay and Shamsher Singh scored for world number three India.
In the regulation time, Hardik Singh (13th minute) and Harmanpreet (58th) found the net for India, while Jip Janssen (30th) and Koen Bijen scored for the Dutch. Netherlands put the home team defence under pressure in the initial eight minutes of the match with play mostly restricted to the Indian circle.
But the Indian defence dished out a solid performance to weather the initial storm. The Indians initially failed to keep possession of the ball but gained in confidence as the match progressed
In the 12th minute, India earned back-to-back penalty corners but Harmanpreet, in his 200th international match, failed to breach the Dutch defence from the set pieces. The Indians, however, grew in confidence and took control of the proceedings.
It took a brilliant field effort from Hardik to hand India the lead after Netherlands' early domination. Hardik stole the ball from the Indian half and joined hands with Sukhjeet Singh to score his 10th international goal
Netherlands draw level 12 seconds before half-time:
It came off a brisk counter-attack with Hardik at the forefront as he teamed up with Sukhjeet before putting the ball into the net from an acute angle. Hardik then earned India a penalty corner in the 24th minute, but the chance was wasted. A minute later, Netherlands secured a penalty corner but Janssen's try went just wide
Just 12 seconds from half-time, Netherlands drew level from a penalty corner with Janssen scoring his 52nd career goal with a powerful flick as both the teams shared the honours in first two quarters. Just like they started the match, the Dutch were on the attack after the change of ends and pressed the Indian defence continuously.
Their efforts bore fruit nine minutes into the third quarter when they took the lead from a penalty corner. Koen Bijen scored from a rebound after Jasper Brinkman's flick was saved by Indian goalie Krishan Bahadur Pathak.
Harnmanpreet Singh comes to the fore and takes India into the shoot-out:
Netherlands kept up the pressure and secured another penalty corner at the stroke of the third quarter but this time, the Indians defended stoutly. In the 47th minute, Netherlands got another penalty corner but the Indians defended well.
Trailing by a goal, the Indians pressed hard in the final 10 minutes and secured two more penalty corners in succession, but wasted both. The Indians didn't lose heart and went into offensive and secured another penalty corner just two minutes from the final hooter after going for video referral and this time, Harmanpreet stepped up and converted the chance to level the scores and take the game into shoot-out.
Victory in Bhubaneswar!— Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) February 11, 2024
Never say never as the Captain's penalty corner delivers a clutch goal, making the match a thrilling tie.
The game reached a nerve-wracking shootout showdown, and we snatched the victory with an incredible 4-2 score in shootout!
India 🇮🇳 2 -… pic.twitter.com/iRtbLAWMQ1
While India defeated Spain 4-1 on Saturday, Netherlands crushed Ireland 5-1. India will next play Australia here on February 15.