The home side pulled off a convincing victory over the Netherlands.
Indian hockey made a memorable debut at the FIH Pro League as they beat the formidable Netherlands 5-2 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar on Saturday.
India took the lead within the first minute, in 28 seconds to be exact, much to the delight of the home fans. Mandeep Singh won the ball from the start and surged forward and his drag back found Gurjant Singh, who promptly diverted it into the back of the net.
The Netherlands, stung by the early goal, tried to hit back and made a few attacking runs. They could have pulled one back soon enough but forward Mirco Pruijser could not put away an easy cross from the right.
The end-to-end action continued as the Indian hockey team kept launching attacks and it paid off when they earned a penalty corner in the 11th minute. Expert drag-flicker, Rupinder Pal Singh duly put it away, albeit via a deflection, to give India a 2-0 lead.
However, the Dutch side halved the deficit just three minutes later. Indian custodian, Krishan Pathak, who started ahead of veteran PR Sreejesh, accidentally deflected the ball onto the leg of Indian captain Manpreet Singh while clearing an attack, giving the Dutch a penalty corner.
They used a decoy and it worked, as defender Jip Janssen rifled home to get them back in the game. The first quarter did not see any more goals and the Netherlands went on the attack right from the word go in the second.
They earned three consecutive penalty corners in the 20th minute but at the end of it all, PR Sreejesh made a good save to deny them the equalizer. The scores were level soon enough though as Jeroen Hertzberger had an easy tap-in after a brilliant run by Diede van Puffelen.
The frenetic first half ended deservedly with both sides level, setting up the second nicely.
India shifted the momentum back early in the second-half with vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh intercepting two Dutch attacks initially and that spurred the team as the third goal came soon after.
Skipper Manpreet Singh made a pass in to Mandeep Singh, who cut inside and hit the ball beautifully into the bottom corner to restore India’s lead. They then made good use of the video referral to win their third penalty corner of the day but Rupinder Pal Singh dragged wide.
India’s two-goal cushion came back in the 42nd minute when Harmanpreet Singh dribbled past three Dutch defenders before crossing the ball in, and Lalit Upadhyay was on hand to deflect it into the back of the net.
The goal-scorer continued to shine as he used the video referral to win the Indian hockey team, who made six successful video referrals on the night, a penalty corner early in the fourth quarter. Rupinder Pal Singh made no mistake this time, as his thunderous shot down the middle made the score 5-2.
With a three-goal lead, India decided to conserve their energy and kept possession to see out the rest of the quarter and the match.
The Netherlands will have a chance to avenge the heavy defeat when the sides meet again on Sunday.