Amsterdam: Gurjant Singh and Mandeep Singh scored a goal apiece as a resolute Indian men’s hockey team overcome world No. 4 Netherlands 2-1 in an exciting encounter here.
Led by Manpreet Singh, the team last night featured nine players from the junior team, but still beat an experienced Netherlands squad through goals from Gurjant (4th minute) and Mandeep (51).
India, thus, won the three-match series.
India straightaway sought to put pressure on the home team and the positive intent worked as they drew first blood through a penalty corner awarded in the fourth minute.
While it was Varun Kumar who attempted the dragflick which was padded away by the Dutch keeper, Gurjant was quick to pick up the rebound and work his reverse stick magic to put the ball high up into the net and score his first international goal for the men’s side.
India continued the strong attack as they made forays into the striking circle. Armaan Qureshi made a great attempt to take India’s lead to 2-0 with a shot on goal but it went slightly wide.
Though the Dutch tried to make amends when they won a penalty corner in the early minutes of the second quarter, the flick was brilliantly saved by India goalkeeper Akash Chikte.
That didn’t deter the Dutch side who attempted a full press and even put India under pressure by winning three more PCs, but they could not make the opportunities count with Chikte staying up to the challenge.
With a 1-0 lead, the third quarter saw Netherlands make desperate attempts to come back into the game but India absorbed the pressure well, only to execute a stronger defensive structure that kept the Dutch from scoring.
The final 15 minutes saw India increase their intensity in attack with Gurjant winning a PC, but it was saved.
The following minute saw Sumit win a PC for India, and this time they tried a different variation that worked like magic with striker Mandeep deflecting into the goal to double India’s lead to 2-0.
Soon after, the Dutch won a PC but debutant goalkeeper Suraj Karkera was up to the task to defend. With final three minutes remaining, Dutch forwards made three strong shots on goal but an alert Karkera kept them from converting. However, Saander de Wijn through a PC scored in the 58th minute but that didn’t stop India from walking away with a 2-1 win.
“I think we played well in all departments to win against the Netherlands. They are a very experienced team with more than eight players with over 100 International Caps. So, to beat them we had to come up with something special.
“I am very happy with the way the entire team performed as one unit especially the players making their debut. They showed no sign of nervousness and played with a lot of confidence,” said an elated skipper Manpreet after the series win.