The Indian men’s hockey team drew their FIH Pro League game against the Netherlands 2-2 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Sunday, February 11. That wasn’t all, India then won the penalty shootout to take the extra point and gain the bragging rights from the match.
In what was an exciting and even contest, the Dutch were off the mark quickly and overwhelmed India with their speed in the early part of the first quarter. However, the Indians soon found their footing and made some good attacking maneuvers.
One of them led to the hosts taking the lead, in the 13th minute. It was, unsurprisingly, FIH Men’s Player of the Year Hardik Singh who played a key part in the set-up. He worked beautifully with Sukhjeet Singh in the right-hand side of the circle and eventually scored the goal himself.
India created more good chances but the Dutch team was too good to be kept off the scoreboard for long. In the dying seconds of the first half, an error from Sumit put India in serious danger of conceding a goal. A strike from a Netherlands attacker was desperately deflected over the backline by Manpreet Singh, but get gave the Dutch team a penalty corner.
Jip Janssen let it rip and equalized for his team before the half-time hooter. It was 1-1 with 30 minutes remaining.
In the second half, another penalty corner led to the Netherlands taking a lead in the 39th minute as Koen Bijen jumped on the rebound from the drag-flick and lobbed the ball in.
What followed was a period of intensity from the Indian team where they made several incursions into the Dutch circle. Their efforts were not proving fruitful until the last three minutes came about.
Then, a push from behind a Dutch player on Hardik, just outside the circle led to a free hit. But India captain Harmanpreet Singh asked for a review, with a penalty corner on his mind. The move worked, as a PC was awarded. And it was Harmanpreet himself, who stepped up to the occasion and levelled the score.
The match then went to the shootout where P Sreejesh was in terrific form. He made two terrific saves and almost made a third one. A questionable call from the TV umpire annulled the third save. But India’s strikers made sure that India won the shootout 4-2.
With this thrilling contest in the history book, let’s look at the player ratings for India from this match.
Jarmanpreet Singh – 8/10
Jarmanpreet was in terrific form and played a crucial role in the Indian team defending well. What added sheen to his performance was his ability to intercept tricky lofted passes and bring them down cleanly.
One of these interceptions saw him intercepting a high ball with a turned-around stick over his right shoulder. It’s as if Jarmanpreet is a human radar in such situations.
Abhishek – 6/10
Abhishek didn’t have as good a day as he would have wanted. He could have turned it around when he got a brilliant through pass and rushed forward with only the goalkeeper in front and just one defender beside him. Abhishek unleashed a solid reverse hit but it just missed the far post.
Manpreet Singh – 8/10
Playing his 351st match, Manpreet looked very solid in defense. He was especially good at the start of the match. His solid work in India’s last 25 was one of the reasons the Dutch couldn’t score more.
Hardik Singh – 8/10
The best Indian player over the last few years, Hardik was his usual brilliant self. However, there were a couple of errors from him towards the end. Still, he performed admirably and even got a goal of his own.
Gurjant Singh – 6/10
Gurjant didn’t have a big role to play, at least visibly today. Whatever few chances he had of getting on the ball, he didn’t make any big errors.
Mandeep Singh – 7/10
Like the last match, Mandeep was energetic in the forward line. However, he isn’t playing as big a role in the team at the moment as in the past. Otherwise, his performance was decent.
Krishan Bahadur Pathak – 7/10
India continued with their rotational system in the goalpost. Pathak manned the post in the first and the third quarter and was effective as usual.
Harmanpreet Singh – 8/10
Delivering the goods when needed, Harmanpreet again showed that he has come a long way since his disastrous campaign in last year’s World Cup. The Indian captain made a key decision to take a review which yielded his goal and was also good as a defender.
Lalit Upadhyay – 8/10
Lalit was India’s best attacker today as he actively created chances and also came up trumps in the shootout.
P Sreejesh – 9/10
Sreejesh didn’t commit any errors during the regulation time, but in the shootout, he shone brightest. Officially, he saved two attempts. A third one was judged to have been a back-stick foul in what was a marginal call at best. But two were enough to get his team the extra point.
Sumit – 5/10
It was Sumit’s big error that allowed the Netherlands to draw level with a penalty corner. He was a bit erratic in the field in this match.
Nilakanta Sharma – 6/10
Nilakanta’s efforts were a mixed bag today. He did well at times but allowed some turnovers on other occasions.
Shamsher Singh – 6/10
During the game, Shamsher didn’t leave that big an impression. Not a bad effort from him but nothing stunning either.
Akashdeep Singh – 5/10
After being left out in the last game, Akashdeep was very much part of the forward line in this game. However, he couldn’t be the dynamic player we know he can be. A bit more from him was expected. A green card further colored his performance.
Amit Rohidas – 7/10
The value of Amit Rohidas was very much visible on the field today. The Odisha defender, playing in front of his home crowd, greatly blunted the Dutch attacks.
Jugraj Singh – 6/10
Jugraj was overshadowed by other defenders in the field today. He was also not able to make a mark with his drag-flicks as India didn’t get enough PCs.
Vivek Sagar Prasad – 6/10
Vivek also produced a mixed bag of efforts in this game. He did produce some good passes in the early part of the game but became a bit error-prone in the latter stages.
Sukhjeet Singh – 8/10
India’s first goal came through a combined effort between Sukhjeet and Hardik. But it was in defense that Sukhjeet played the more prominent role. His occasional forays into the opposition’s last 25 was a bonus for India.