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A goal each by Akashdeep Singh and Sukhjeet Singh in the first quarter of the game helped India overcome spirited Argentina 2-1 in their last match of the FIH Pro Hockey League in Eindhoven (The Netherlands). Lucas Toscani scored for Argentina two minutes before the final hooter .
India finished the league with 30 points from 16 matches . Argentina is fifth with 13 points from 14 matches.
Seasoned striker Akashdeep Singh gave his side a dream start with a goal in less than two minutes into the game. Unmarked in the circle he latched on to a pass from the right flank, and deflected into the net with ease.
Undaunted by this early setback, Argentina counter attacked in the 4th minute but Indian defence’s timely interception foiled that move. The next few minutes saw holding on to the ball and controlling the proceedings . They showed composure in their pursuit and in the 14th -minute Akashdeep set up the goal with a good back pass to Vivek Sagar Prasad.
Clearing the rival defence, Vivek relayed the ball to Sukhjeet, in front of the goal who simply had to beat goal keeper Santiago Tomas to the post (2-0).
In the second quarter , Karthi Selvam, Akashdeep and Mandeep Singh took turns to create scoring opportunities but neither could captalize on them. Argentina made counter moves and pushed for goals in this quarter but cautious defending by India helped keep a clean slate.
After the ten-minute break the South Americans went on the offensive . An infringement on India’s part in the circle gave Argentina their first PC of the match. Nicholas Della Torre’s flick was stopped by first rusher Amit Rohidas. Another PC awarded, and this time Jarmanpreet cleared the ball. Both teams traded shots on goal in the next few minutes but neither came close to converting them.
In the final quarter, India came up with a well-organised defence to keep the Argentine attackers from making easy forays into the circle. , Hardik, leading the squad in the absence of Captain Harmanpreet Singh who is back in India following the birth of his daughter, tried to make some smart interception but couldn’t hold on to the possession.
A few minutes later, Mandeep Singh, vying to score his 100th international goal, attempted to keep the ball in India’s half along with Jarmanpreet but Argentina did well to keep all the Indian attackers marked.
In the 58th minute, Argentina won a crucial PC but Nicholas Della Torre’s flick was superbly saved by goalie PR Sreejesh. However, the referee awarded Argentina another PC for potential danger play a. Amit Rohidas was seen using his stick held high up and even though India appealed through the referral, the decision for PC was upheld.
The lifeline was lapped up by Argentina, with Lucas Toscani beating Sreejesh to the goal this time. While the last two minutes remained tense, India did well to hold on to the 2-1 and eventually added three points to their kitty.
India now holds a four-point advantage over second-placed Great Britain in the FIH Pro League 2022-23 standings but the European team has four games to go.
India finished in fourth place in their debut FIH Pro League campaign back in 2020-21. Their best-finish in the competition, third, came in the 2021-22 season.