Hockey: India coach Graham Reid eying improvements after Argentina draw

Buenos Aires (Argentina): After losing 3-4 to India in the first practice match, reigning Olympic champions Argentina quelled India’s chances of a second consecutive victory as they made a strong comeback to hold the visitors 4-4 in a thrilling practice match here at Cenard, Buenos Aires on Wednesday. 

It was Varun Kumar (7′ and 44′), Rajkumar Pal (13′), Rupinder Pal Singh (14′) who scored for India while Leandro Tolini (10′), Lucas Toscani (23′), Ignacio Ortiz (42′), Lucas Martinez (57′) scored 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 India’s Chief Coach Graham Reid. 

India had 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 PC in the 7th minute which was effortlessly converted by dragflicker Varun Kumar. 

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 Pal’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 Upadhyay saw Rupinder Pal Singh score a splendid goal taking India’s lead to 3-1 in the 14th minute.

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The second quarter began with both teams trading PCs with each other but none were successful. However, in the 23rd minute, Argentina’s Lucas Toscani struck a fine goal to narrow India’s lead to 3-2. Though India replied with an 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 halftime break, both teams vied to dominate with the ball and played on par with each other to keep the tempo up. It was eventually Argentina who succeeded in breaking the gridlock in this quarter by earning a PC which was well-struck by Argentina’s attacking midfielder Ignacio Ortiz. 

Also Read: Hockey: India draw 4-4 with Argentina in 2nd friendly match

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 entry 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. Though they created a PC in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, it was well-saved by India custodian Krishan Pathak but he could do little to stop Lucas Martinez field goal in the 57th minute, thus ending the game in a 4-4 stalemate. 

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“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,” stated Reid.

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