Hopes for the title in the FIH Pro League of the Indian men’s hockey team went up in smoke after a hard-fought 1-2 defeat against the Netherlands in the second game of the match in Rotterdam on Sunday. India had lost 1-4 to the Netherlands in the shoot-out on Saturday, after both teams finished 2-2 at the end of the regulations for 60 minutes. The Indians needed an outright win over the Netherlands to have a chance to take the tile, but it wasn’t to be.
The Netherlands won the FIH Men’s Pro League with 35 points from 14 games, with two games to go.
Olympic champion Belgium finished second with 35 points from 16 matches, while India finished in third place with 30 points from 16 matches.
The Indians started strong and took the lead within 30 seconds with a superb field goal from Abhishek.
Abhishek collected the ball on the right flank and dodged four defenders with brilliant stickwork to push the ball past the Netherlands’ second goalkeeper, Mauritzs Visser.
The Indians put constant pressure on the Dutch defense from the start and dominated the early share of the exchanges.
But the Netherlands made their way into the game by tying the score in the seventh minute via a penalty corner conversion by Jip Janssen.
It was end-to-end hockey between the world No. 3 Netherlands and the world No. 4 India, with both teams matching each other stick by stick.
The Netherlands was patient in the Indian circle and created a new penalty corner in the 11th minute, which kept Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh at a distance.
The Dutchman secured three more penalty corners, but failed to break through the Indian defence.
In the 16th minute, India provided a PC, but Harmanpreet Singh’s film was saved by the Dutch custodian.
The hosts soon had another PC, but once again veteran Sreejesh came to the rescue for India.
Two minutes before half time, India received back-to-back penalty corners, but the Dutchman defended vigorously.
The third quarter also provided fascinating hockey, but neither team scored until the 45th minute when Jorrit Croon sounded the board from a fixed game to give the hosts a 2-1 lead.
Trailing a goal, the Indians gave their all in the fourth and final quarter and created plenty of scoring opportunities in the form of penalty corners, but failed to capitalize on the opportunities.
In the 47th minute, a tap by Varun Kumar from a penalty corner was saved by Dutch keeper Visser.
India had opportunities, but Visser was brilliant in front of the Netherlands’ goal, making numerous saves. Four minutes into the horn, India secured a penalty corner, but again lost the chance to finish second for the second consecutive day.
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