An inspired India registered their first win over the Netherlands in 18 years when they stunned the World Cup and Olympic silver medallists 3-2 in a high-voltage encounter to finish third in Pool B at the Champions Trophy hockey tournament here on Tuesday.
The win not only broke India’s two match losing streak, but also helped the Sardar Singh and Co break their 18-year jinx against the mighty Dutch. India last defeated the Netherlands way back in 1996 in an Olympic qualifying tournament in Barcelona.
It was also India’s first win over the Netherlands in the Champions Trophy after 1986.
Courtesy Tuesday’s result, India finished third in Pool B and will take on Belgium in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Despite the loss, the Netherlands topped the pool and will take on Pakistan in the last-eight round.
In other quarterfinal encounters, Pool A toppers England will face Olympic champions Germany, who surprisingly finished at the bottom of Pool B, while Argentina will face Australia.
For India S V Sunil (33rd minute), Manpreet Singh (47th) and Rupinder Pal Singh (49th) were the goal-scorers, while the Netherlands’ both goals were scored by Mink van der Weeden (36th, 58th). Unlike their first two matches, the Indians looked far more coordinated and motivated. It was keenly-contested first two quarters for both teams.
Both India and the Netherlands created chances but what eluded them were goals.
India’s first scoring chance came in the 10th minute when Akashdeep Singh’s feeble deflection from S K Utahappa’s build-up was easily kept away by Dutch goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak.
The Indians, however, found it hard to create spaces in the midfield because of the Netherlands tight man-to-man marking. In defence, Rupinder Pal Singh looked clueless and was guilty of miss trapping and losing the ball on numerous occasions.
The Netherlands first real opening came in the 20th minute but Indian custodian P R Sreejesh easily palmed away Rogier Hofman’s reverse hit.
Young Uthappa was impressive with his runs and subtle stick work. He was once again at the centre of an Indian build-up and created an opening for an unmarked Ramandeep but the latter failed to trap the ball inside the opposition circle.
Ramandeep then found the foot of a Dutch player inside the circle to earn India’s first penalty corner which led to another but the home team wasted both.
Soon another opening came India’s way when Akashdeep stole the ball in the midfield and passed it inside the circle for Lalit Upadhyay who couldn’t reach it. Two minutes from half time, Hofman pulled off another brilliant save from Sreejesh, who had to stretch his right leg to keep the ball away. India had another lucky escape seven seconds from half time when Mink van der Weerden hit the top upright from the Netherlands’ first penalty corner.
After two goalless but action-packed quarters, it took a gem of a goal from India to break the deadlock, courtesy Sunil. Sunil got a great deflection from Gurjinder Singh’s long ball to give India the lead. The Netherlands, however, went for the referral which went against them. India’s lead was short-lived as the Netherlands equalised two minutes later from second of the successive penalty corners through Van der Weeden which Indian custodian Harjot Singh, who replaced Sreejesh, had no answer.
Uthappa then came close to registering his name in the scoresheet but his deflection from Dharamvir Singh’s cross from the right flank was blocked by the Netherlands goalie Pirmin.
But persistent attacks finally resulted in their second goal in the 47th minute. Danish Mujtaba first forced a double save from Pirmin and from the resultant rebound Manpreet scored with a slap shot before Rupinder converted a penalty corner two minutes later to send the crowd into frenzy.
Two minutes from the final hooter, Van der Weeden converted another penalty corner for the Netherlands to bring the game alive.
But the Indian defence, which broke down against Argentina in the last match, stood tall in the final minutes to keep their lead intact and register a memorable win.