Eight time winners India gave tough fight to much higher ranked Netherlands before going down 2-3 in their opening London Olympic Games pool B men's hockey competition here Monday.
The Netherlands, the World No.3, opened up a 2-0 lead within the first half hour mark, but the Indians rallied back remarkably during a four-minute blitz after half time to draw parity at the riverbank arena. However, the European powerhouse struck the winner from a penalty corner midway into the second session to log full points.
Robert van Der Horst, Robert van Der Horst, Roderick Weusthof and Mink van der Weerden were the scorers for the Dutch, while Dharamvir Singh and Shivendra Singh struck for India in the pulsating and fast game played before packed stands.
The Indians - ranked a lowly ten in the world - played well, particularly in the midfield, but their forwards were often found lacking, as they made a mess of a number of golden opportunities. But the defence looked solid, with V.Raghunath cutting out some beautiful Dutch moves. Indian skipper Bharat Chettri also shone under the bar making som brilliant saves.
India, returning to the Olympics after a gap of eight years, started off the match with a fast attack, but the Netherlands came close to scoring on the counter before Birendra Lakra effected a fine clearance.
The Dutch played a holding game as Teuen de Nooijer - playing his fifth Olympics - muffed a one-to-one with Indian goalkeeper Chetri at his mercy. The Netherlands pressed hard and went ahead in the 20th minute with van Der Horst directing his powerful hit from the top of the circle into the goal.
The Dutch doubled the lead in the 20th minute when Weusthof converted a penalty corner.
Down 0-2 at the breather, the Indians looked more determined in the second half as they showed urgency, but S.K.Uthappa missed two easy chances in the early minutes.
But it was the same Uthappa who set up India's first goal with a measured back pass along the backline that hit the far post and bounced. Dharamvir retained his composure to get to the ball and send it in spectacularly.
India drew level three minutes later through Shivendra Singh's field strike, much to the joy of their considerable number of supporters in the galleries.
But India's joy was shortlived. Sander Baart found Sardara's foot in the crowded Indian circle and the 23-year-old Weerden made no mistake in scoring from the resultant penalty corner in the 51st minute. A desperate India attacked constantly towards the dying stages, but lacked in finishing.
Lord's, London ,5/16/2013, 15:30 (IST)
M.Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru ,5/18/2013, 20:00 (IST)
Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai ,5/15/2013, 20:00 (IST)
Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium, Dharamsala ,5/16/2013, 20:00 (IST)
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