India made it five points from a possible six points on the opening weekend of the men’s FIH Hockey Pro League, with the hosts fighting back from 3-1 down against the Netherlands to tie the match before winning the shoot-out in a wonderful encounter at Bhubaneswar’s Kalinga Hockey Stadium.
The home favourites – 5-2 winners against the Dutch on Saturday – had the better of the early chances, but it was the Netherlands who took a 3-1 lead into half time thanks to quick-fire strikes from Mink van der Weerden, Jeroen Hertzberger and Bjorn Kellerman just before the break. A yellow card ten-minute suspension for captain Manpreet Singh saw India play most of the third quarter with ten players, but somehow managed to avoid conceding before Mandeep Singh and Rupinder Singh netted in the fourth quarter to send the match to a shoot-out for the bonus point. Vivek Prasad, Gurjant Singh and Akashdeep Singh successfully converted their opportunities in the one-on-ones, giving India a 3-1 shoot-out victory to thrill the home fans at the Kalinga Stadium.
Rupinder Singh, Player of the Match, said: “I think it was really good for us because we have been playing against the Netherlands for a long time and we [have been] training every day really hard”, said India goal-scorer and Player of the Match Rupinder Singh after the game. “I think it is good because it is an Olympic year and we are working hard. It’s good for our confidence, also.”
Netherlands captain Billy Bakker said: “Like I said yesterday, we played one quarter pretty well, but that was not enough. I think today was a way better performance than yesterday, but unfortunately we didn’t control the last quarter.”