Indian men’s hockey team gets an impressive debut at the FIH Hockey Pro League with a 5-2 victory over World no. 3 Netherlands in the first leg on Saturday at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar as they beat the visitors. It came as sweet payback by the Indian team that lost to the Orange brigade in the quarterfinals of the 2018 Hockey World Cup at the same venue.
The hosts took the lead through probably the fastest goal in the history of the tournament as Mandeep and Gurjant led a brilliant one-two-one attack which culminated in a goal by the latter in the opening 30 seconds. India won their first PC in the 12th minute and Rupinder Pal Singh seized the opportunity to double the lead with his brilliant drag-flick that got deflected and found the net.
Netherlands won a PC a minute later and Janssen found the opening goal for the visitors with a perfect strike that was beyond Krishan Pathak’s ability to save. The first quarter came to a close with a scoreline of 2-1 in favour of the Men in Blue. Netherlands levelled the scoreline minutes before half-time as an attack from the left flank found goal-machine Jeroen Hertzberger inside the box who pushed the ball past Sreejesh to make it 2-2.
Four minutes into the second half, Mandeep found a brilliant pass from captain Manpreet and priduced India’s third goal with a remarkable strike past Pirmin Blaak. In the 37th minute, Harmanpreet and Lalit Upadhyay went on brilliant attacking move and a shot from the left corner by Harmanpreet deflected past Lalit’s stick to land inside the opponent goal.
Netherlands picked up rhythm in the final quarter as they kept on testing the Indian defence with barrage of attacks. However, in the 46th minute India won another PC and Rupinder struck another thunderous drag-flick straight into the nets to make it 5-2 for the hosts.
In the last five matches against each other, both sides had won two each with a match drawn. India have won 2-1 and 4-3 while Netherlands won 2-1 (WC QF, 2018) and 3-1. In the 2018 Champions Trophy, both sides had played a 1-1 draw.
Indian side is playing in the tournament for the first time while the Dutch have won the bronze medal last year. The best hockey-playing nations are participating in the event and all the countries will take the tournament as ideal preparation in the run-up to the Olympics in Tokyo.
India will play the Netherlands again tomorrow during the second-leg of their first draw at the Kalinga Stadium.