India defeated Argentina 2-1, for the first time since 2009, in their third group match of the men’s hockey team event in the 2016 Rio Olympics to almost confirm their place in the quarterfinals. Chinglensana Singh and Kothajit Singh scored the goals for India.
After suffering an agonising last-minute defeat against Germany yesterday, World No.5 India faced World No.7 Argentina as they looked to keep their hopes of a quarter-final place alive. India went into the match as the fourth-placed team in the group with three points from two games, while Argentina was third with four points from two games.
Chinglensana Singh gives India perfect start
India started the match on the positive and kept the ball with themselves in the opening minutes. SV Sunil’s pace was once again India’s big weapon, and the forward earned India their first penalty corner of the match in the eighth minute with a fast counter down the right. Rupinder Pal Singh took the penalty corner, which looked destined for the bottom corner, but the Argentine goalie saved it with his legs. However, India got another opportunity after the Argentine defenders failed to clear the ball. India used a variation, this time, and Chinglensana Singh took the shot to the right of the goal to beat a diving Juan Vivaldi. Argentina expected VR Raghunath to take the shot and the variation had outfoxed them.
India continued their dominance in the rest of the quarter, but in the last minute before the quarter, India had a lucky escape. VR Raghunath received a green card and India were down to 10 men. The Argentines used the opportunity to attack and almost put the ball into the net, only to see it rebounding back off the post.
Kothajit doubles the lead
India’s defence has been error-prone in the past, but today VR Raghunath raised the game for the match against Argentina and kept the defence tight. The team also pressed high up the pitch and troubled the Argentines to enforce mistakes.
After going into the half-way mark with a 1-0 lead, Kothajit Singh doubled India’s lead in the 34th minute. India harried the Argentine defender in the right corner, and after a scramble, they won the ball. Akashdeep Singh employed some nice stick work to send the ball back into the circle and Ramandeep Singh took a shot at the goal. But he failed to connect properly and the ball fell to Kothajit Singh. He made no mistake and smashed it to the right of the goalie to make it 2-0.
Last quarter trouble for India
India last beat Argentina back in 2009, and it looked like they would register their first win in a long time. However, Argentina came out for the fourth quarter as a different team and unleashed attack after attack on the Indian goal. They won their first penalty corner in the 48th minute, and it give Gonzallo Peillat a chance to unleash his powerful penalty corners. Peillat stepped up and unleashed a straightforward low drive to the bottom left corner to beat PR Sreejesh.
Argentina had their first goal and they pushed for more. The Indian defence, which had stood tall for the first three quarters, conceded penalty corner after penalty corner in the fourth. But, PR Sreejesh was a wall before the goal and kept Argentina out with some incredible saves. Although Argentina pushed forward over and over, India held their nerves in the last minute and held on for a 2-1 win to move to second position in the table.
India will next face Canada.