India came up with a brave performance but missed many chances, including a penalty stroke, to do down 1-2 to the Netherlands in the FIH Hockey Pro League here on Sunday.
With the championship title at stake, the Dutch pulled off a narrow 2-1 win to claim their maiden Pro League, finishing ahead of World and Olympic champions Belgium, who had to be satisfied with the second place despite a 5-0 win against England in London. The Netherlands finished with 36 points, one ahead of Belgium as India ended their campaign with a third-place finish.
For some time on Sunday, the Indians gave Holland a scare as they went ahead 1-0 and had a chance to take the lead back but Harmanpreet Singh’s penalty stroke was saved by Dutch custodian Pirmin Blaak.
Abhishek (1st min) was the lone goal scorer for India while Jip Janssen (7th min) and Jorrit Croon (45th min) scored for the hosts.
India had gotten off to a rollicking start with a goal through Abhishek in the 29th second as he made a brave foray into the striking circle and took a valiant shot on goal. Although the early 1-0 lead by India put the Dutch side on the back foot, they did not do anything out of the order under pressure but instead built on their attack which helped them win PCs.
Jip Janssen taking the penalty corner was on target with a fiercely struck drag-flick that went past India’s experienced goalkeeper PR Sreejesh at a blistering pace.
Only a minute into the second quarter, India created a brilliant opportunity when Harmanpreet Singh made a long pass to forward Gujrant Singh who took a fine shot on goal. But a stick tackle by a Dutch defender saw India being awarded a penalty stroke. However, the chance was lost with Blaak displaying impeccable skills to stop Harmanpreet’s flick aimed at the top right pocket. Only minutes later, Dutch launched a fine attack that saw them create a PC but an alert Sreejesh continued to impress with excellent saves.
With scores tied at 1-1 when the teams went into the half-time break, it was an even battle in the following two quarters where both teams worked their strategies to create scoring opportunities.
Though in the first half, the Dutch dominated with ball possession and circle entries, India upped the ante in the third and fourth quarters with more ball possession and circle penetration, creating several opportunities through PCs as well as field-goal chances. However, they couldn’t get clear shots that could beat the Dutch defence.
Meanwhile, the hosts did not fumble in their attack as they converted from a PC in the 45th minute. A well-worked set-piece saw Jip Janssen flick the ball to the left flak which was perfectly deflected into the goal by Croon fetching that much-needed 2-1 lead.
Backed by the vociferous home support, the Netherlands defended the score till the final hooter, thus clinching the championship with two more matches to be played against Spain.
India had more possession (51 to 49%) but the Dutch had 29 shots at the goal while India managed 18. Both teams had seven shots at the goal each while the Dutch bagged eight PCs as compared to seven by the visitors.