Breda: The Indian Men’s Hockey Team held their nerves with stunning team work to draw 1-1 with the Netherlands as they romped into the final against Australia here in the Hockey Champions tournament in Breda on Saturday.
This is only the second time in the history of the tournament that the Indian Men’s Hockey Team have made it to the final. Previously, the team had won a Silver Medal in 2016, after a gap of 34 years.
It was Mandeep Singh (47’) who scored the crucial goal for India in this thrilling encounter while Thierry Brinkman (55’) scored the equaliser for the home team.
There was plenty of action in the first quarter with both teams vying for a place in the Final. India, however, created a goal-scoring opportunity first with youngster Dilpreet Singh making the right call to ask for a video referral. The video umpire ruled in India’ favour for a dangerous ball in the striking circle, though Harmanpreet Singh’s powerful flick was brilliantly parried away by Dutch goalkeeper Sam van der Ven.
Immediately though, the home team launched a quick-fire counter with Seve van Ass taking a shot on goal. But with an in-form PR Sreejesh continuing his outstanding form at the goalpost made it difficult for the Dutch to convert. India won their second PC, thanks to Dilpreet again, but a variation saw Harmanpreet pass the ball to Varun Kumar after Sardar’s injection but Varun couldn’t get a strong push which was cleared quite effortlessly by the Dutch goalkeeper.
Though India gave away three PCs by half time, with no score on the board for either teams. The visitors’ defence today was compact, very alert and yet again had Sreejesh standout. One of his best saves was when Jorrit Croon stole the ball from India’s midfield to launch a swift counter, beating a fleet of Indian defenders to make it to their striking circle only to find a perfect pass to Thijs van Dam, but his shot was excellently saved by Sreejesh who remained the cynosure in India’s defence.
With a goalless scoreboard, the third quarter was crucial. The Netherlands dominated with ball possession, making 20 circle entries and took six shots on goal. While India had made just 12 circle entries with 4 shots on goal. India’s backline continued to play to structure, with some clever defending while India had a better coordinated move up front with Sunil and Mandeep working in tandem but could not muster a goal in the third quarter.
India will face defending champions Australia in the final on Sunday.