Rio de Janeiro | India survived a final- quarter onslaught from Argentina for a nail-biting 2-1 win that enhanced their quarterfinal chances at the men’s hockey competition of the Rio Olympics, here Tuesday.
The second win in the Pool stage has virtually secured India a quarterfinal berth as they rose to the second position with six points.
India dominated Argentina in the first three quarters but came under tremendous pressure from the Los Leones in the final 15 minutes during which they conceded as many as five penalty corners.
Trailing 0-2, the Argentines played all out hockey in the final quarter as the Indians looked out of sorts.
It was a tense final quarter for the Indians after drag-flicker Gonzalo Peillat pulled one back for Argentina in the 49th minute by converting their first penalty corner with a lethal strike that beat goalkeeper PR Sreejesh all ends up.
It looked as if it would turn out to be another heart break for the Indians, following their 1-2 loss to Germany yesterday after conceding a goal in the dying moments, as the game was mostly played in the Indian half thereafter.
If not for Sreejesh, India could have suffered their second successive defeat in the Games. Sreejesh pulled off as many as five saves to deny Peillat and the Argentines.
Earlier, India were the better side in the first three quarters and took the lead through Chinglensana Singh (8th minute) before fellow Manipuri player Kothajit Singh doubled the scoreline with a field strike in the 35th minute.
The win against Argentina is of great significance for India as they last defeated the Los Leones way back in 2009 Champions Challenge, where they won 3-2. In the recent past both the teams played a 3-3 draw at the six-nation tournament in Valencia ahead of the Games.
India will next play London Olympic silver medallist Netherlands in their penultimate pool match on Thursday.
Possession wise it was even stevens in the opening quarter but India had the better share of exchanges and created more scoring chances than Argentina.
India’s first real scoring opportunity came in the seventh minute when SV Sunil cut through inside the Argentina circle from the right flank to pass it on to Akashdeep Singh, whose push was saved by rival goalkeeper Vivaldi.
But from the ongoing move came India’s first penalty corner but Vivalidi once again came to Argentina’s rescue to keep away Rupinder Pal Singh fierce flick.
India kept up the pressure and secured their second short corner in the next minute and this time Chinglensana converted the chance after a small goof-up to give his side the lead.
Chinglensana failed to stop the push properly but made amends for his mistake and came up with a shot that somehow found the back of the net over a diving Vivaldi’s arm.
Towards the end of the first quarter, Argentina exerted some pressure on the Indian defence and the Indians were lucky to retain their lead when Manuel Brunet struck the post.
Argentina came out attacking in the second quarter but the Indian defence stood tall to thwart any danger.
The Indians, on the other hand, were slow to get off the blocks in the second quarter but as time passed by they got into their groove and enjoyed the possession.
Both India and Argentina created chances but goals eluded both the sides as PR Sreejesh-led side went into the breather with a one goal cushion.
The penultimate quarter after the change of ends belonged to India as they controlled the proceedings and scored five minutes into restart through Kothajit, who pounced on a loose ball to find the net.
The final quarter completely belonged to Argentina but the Indians did just enough to maintain their composure and avoid a repeat of the match against Germany, when they conceded a goal three seconds from the hooter to lose the tie.
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