India rode their luck to survive the frantic last five minutes to hold hosts Netherlands to a 1-1 draw and book their berth in final against Australia in the Champions Trophy hockey tournament. Mandeep Singh got the lead for India in fourth quarter but was leveled by Netherlands few minutes later.
With seven points from four matches, India needed just a draw to advance to the summit clash for the second successive time and it looked like the berth was sealed when Mandeep Singh found the opening goal in the 47th minute. But the hosts came back to equalize in the 55th minute through Thierry Brinkman, leading to a five minute period in which the Indians had to defend for their lives.
And the whole stadium erupted into wild celebrations when Jeroen Hertzberger found the net in the 58th minute, only for the video umpire to turn it down because the free hit leading to the goal wasn’t taken correctly.
Aware of the perils of playing for a draw against the pacy Dutch team, Indian were off the blocks early for probably the first time in the tournament and could have scored in the first three minutes. SV Sunil had the first opportunity to find the net in the second minute but the striker couldn’t control the ball on the goal mouth. A minute later, Harmanpreet Singh’s dragflick was well saved by Dutch custodian San van der Ven. At the other end, PR Sreejesh was called into action a couple of minutes later to deny Seve van Ass from a close range.
It was only because of the heroics of the Indian custodian that Harendra Singh’s men could go into the half time without conceding a goal as the 30-year-old saved two more penalty corners and then left his line to deny Thijs van Dam from a one-on-one situation two minutes from the half hour mark.
To the credit of the Indian defence, led by Sreejesh, they did not wilt under pressure and kept their structure. Mandeep finally gave India the lead two minutes into the fourth quarter when he pounced on the rebound following a Harmanpreet drag flick to hit the ball home.
In reply, the hosts finally managed to breach Sreejesh’s defence six minutes from time when Brinkman benefited from a slight deflection of Amit Rohidas’ stick for the ball to balloon over the goalkeeper’s shoulder in the goal. The Dutch felt that they had found the winner two minutes from time when a quickly taken free hit was deflected by Jeroen Hertzberger. But the video umpire adjudged that the ball was not clearly stopped while taking the free hit. The hosts earned three penalty corners thereafter but Hertzberger could not find the net again, clearing India’s path to only their second final of this competition.
Netherlands would now face Argentina for the bronze medal match.
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