The Indian men’s hockey team coach Graham Reid rued missed opportunities after his side let slip an early lead to be held 4-4 by Olympic champions Argentina in the second practice match here.
Argentina had lost 3-4 to India in the first practice match but came back strongly for a draw in the second game at Cenard, Buenos Aires on Wednesday.
Varun Kumar (7′ and 44′), Rajkumar Pal (13′), Rupinder Pal Singh (14′) scored for India while Leandro Tolini (10′), Lucas Toscani (23′), Ignacio Ortiz (42′), Lucas Martinez (57′) sounded the board for the home team.
“The match was very similar to our first practice game. We had opportunities to close out the match but we didn’t take them,” stated Reid.
India made a fine start in the first quarter with a well-structured attack that fetched them three goals ensuring an early lead. The first goal was courtesy forward Mandeep Singh, who helped India earn a Penalty Corner (PC) in the seventh minute which was effortlessly converted by dragflicker Varun.
Though an early 1-0 lead put the home side on the backfoot, they bounced back in the 10th minute when they earned a PC.
Leandro Tolini, who scored twice in the previous match, came up with a well-executed dragflick to equalise. India, however, regained the lead with Rajkumar’s goal in the 13th minute.
He was assisted by Nilakanta Sharma who has been in good nick, showing his prowess as an attacking midfielder. In the following minute, a PC earned by India forward Lalit Upadyay saw Rupinder score a splendid goal taking India’s lead to 3-1 in the 14th minute.
The second quarter began with both teams trading PCs but none were successful.
However, in the 23rd minute, Toscani struck a fine goal to narrow India’s lead to 3-2. Though India replied with aggressive attack, they were unable to create successful forays into the striking circle.
“Unfortunately, some turnovers in the second half gave them opportunities to come back. You can’t give a team like Argentina chances to get back in the game and not expect them to take it,” expressed Reid.
Following the 10-minute half-time break, Argentina succeeded in breaking the gridlock in this quarter by earning a PC which was well-struck by attacking mid-fielder Ortiz.
The 3-3 equaliser didn’t dampen India’s spirit as they successfully scored the fourth goal via forward Dilpreet Singh who made a successful foray into the striking circle, earning India a PC in the 44th minute. Varun made no mistake in converting the goal and regaining the lead for India.
With the visitors ahead only by a goal, the last quarter was a battle of nerves with the home team stepping on the gas to secure an equaliser. Lucas Martinez then pulled one back for the hosts with a field goal in the 57th minute, thus ending the game in a 4-4 stalemate.
“On the weekend (at the double-header in FIH Hockey Pro League), we need to be more mindful of our thoroughness at both ends of the pitch ensuring we are more frugal in defence and clinical in attack,” said Reid.