PANAJI: India thwarted reigning Olympic Champions Argentina’s comeback bid to register a 4-3 victory in a high-scoring first practice match which went down to the wire here in Cenard, Buenos Aires. The Indian team led by Skipper Manpreet Singh is in Argentina for the double-header against the home team in the FIH Hockey Pro League scheduled for 11th and 12th April at 0130hrs IST. That will be followed by two more matches against Argentina as part of their Olympic preparations.
“It was a very good practice match, intensely fought by both teams. It is always nice to come up with a win against a team like Olympic Champions Argentina as it amplifies our confidence levels,” expressed Chief Coach Graham Reid in a Hockey India press communique issued from Buenos Aires after the winning start to their campaign in Argentina.
After a stalemate first quarter which saw both teams take their time to settle, India produced quality attack to put the home team on the back foot early in the match. The visitors scored early with Nilakanta Sharma’s fine field goal in the 16th minute. He was well-assisted by young forward Shilanand Lakra. Though Argentina replied to India’s aggressive show by securing a PC in the following minutes, experienced India custodian PR Sreejesh was brilliant in his saves to keep the hosts from scoring an equaliser.
India’s forwardline in the meantime worked on beating the Argentine defence as they set up yet another scoring opportunity when Dilpreet Singh earned India a PC in the 28th minute. Harmanpreet Singh made no mistake in his attempt, as he took India’s lead to 2-0 with a sensational strike.
“We were able to create opportunities in the circle and also convert them. This was one of the areas we really put our minds to in the national camp back in SAI, Bengaluru. But we allowed Argentina to come back into the game particularly in the third quarter where they scored twice. When you play a strong team like them, we need to be consistent in all the quarters,” Reid underlined.
Argentina made a strong comeback in the third quarter as they scored in the 32nd minute via Leandro Tolini who was spot on while converting a PC. India were quick to respond as they won a PC too in the 33rd minute through Jaskaran Singh. This time it was experienced India dragflicker Rupinder Pal Singh who struck a brilliant goal ensuring India a 3-1 lead. Argentina, however, ended the quarter with another goal in the 42nd minute through Maico Casella. Though they vied for an equaliser by earning yet another PC in the following minute, young India goalkeeper Krishan Pathak was alert to stop the goal.
The final quarter remained tense with both teams upping the ante. In the 47th minute, India’s Dilpreet Singh set up a fine PC which was well-struck by Varun Kumar who has returned to the squad after a hamstring injury. Though Argentina’s Tolini scored in the 53rd minute to narrow India’s lead to 4-3, the visiting team put up a spirited defence to end the game with a fine win. “Each match we play is a learning experience and I feel we have scope to do better. We look forward to a good match on Wednesday too. These matches will surely help us when we take on the home team in the double header Pro League matches,” Reid said.
India will play their second practice match against Olympic Champions Argentina on Wednesday, 7 April 2021 at 2030 hours IST.