Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh made some exceptional saves during the penalty shootout.
A penalty corner earned by Indian skipper Manpreet Singh with just 25 seconds left for the final hooter changed the course of a tense battle in the FIH Pro League against the Olympic Champions Argentina who were poised for victory with a 2-1 lead. Harmanpreet Singh scored his second goal in the 60th minute with an electrifying dragflick that fetched India a 2-2 equalizer pushing the match into a penalty shootout.
It was India’s Lalit Upadhyay, Rupinder Pal Singh and Dilpreet Singh who scored in the penalty shootout while India’s experienced custodian PR Sreejesh came up with impressive saves to fetch India a bonus point in the FIH Pro League.
Earlier in the contest, it was India who drew the first blood after a stalemate first quarter with a PC in the 21st minute. Indian Vice Skipper Harmanpreet Singh picked up a fine injection to fiercely strike the ball to the left of the Argentine goalkeeper fetching India a much-needed 1-0 lead.
Argentina bounced back as they put Indian defence under real pressure with potential circle penetrations in the following minutes. Their efforts paid off with India conceding a PC in the 28th minute. Martin Ferreiro was impeccable in his execution to score an equalizer. He was also responsible for Argentina’s second goal through yet another PC in the 30th minute, ending the second quarter with a comfortable 2-1 lead.
At half-time, stats projected Argentina’s dominance as they had better ball possession in comparison to India and also had 10 shots on goal while the visitors had made eight attempts on goal. The third quarter was goalless with both teams keeping the pressure up against each other and living up to the billing. Though both sides had traded PCs in this quarter, neither could muster a goal.
With the score board reading 2-1 at the start of the deciding quarter, the contest went down to the wire with both teams stepping on the gas. Desperate for a win after losing to Germany in the double-header last week, the Olympic Champions Argentina were resolute in their efforts while India worked the yards vying for an elusive goal.
In the opening minute of the fourth quarter, Harmanpreet Singh slapped the ball from the top of the circle towards the goal but Lalit Upadhyay couldn’t get his stick on the ball for a deflection. Pressure mounted on India in the dying minutes of the match with two of their key players Varun Kumar and Mandeep Singh sitting out of the game with a yellow card. But Skipper Manpreet Singh’s valiant effort in the final moments ensured a successful outing for the visitors.
“I think the biggest take away from this match is our fighting spirit. We didn’t lose hope until the last minute and we fought back really hard to earn this result,” stated an elated Harmanpreet Singh whose equalizer set-up an exciting shootout.
India will next face Argentina in the second FIH Pro League match on 12 April 2021 at 0130 hrs IST.