On Sunday, the Indian hockey teams, men's and women's, were beaten by Spain in the FIH Pro League 2021-22 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. The next round of matches will see the Indian teams face off against Germany at the same venue from March 12, Kalinga Stadium in Odisha.
The Indian men's hockey team has four wins in the FIH Pro League and is second on the points table with 12 points after defeating Spain 5-4 in the first leg on Saturday. Spain, on the other hand, won their first match of the tournament and now sits in eighth place with three points.
Both India and Spain got off to a good start in the second leg, with multiple circle penetrations in the first few minutes.
India ranked fourth in the world and five places ahead of Spain in the hockey rankings, broke through in the sixth minute with a spectacular field goal. Before slotting the striking circle into the net, Abhishek displayed some sublime stickwork inside the striking circle.
However, India's lead was short-lived, as they conceded twice in a row before the end of the first quarter.
Pau Cunill converted a penalty corner, and then a defensive blunder by India allowed Joan Tarres to fire a long-range shot past goalkeeper Suraj Karkera.
The second period saw a slight drop in momentum as both teams took a more cautious approach and kept possession for longer. PR Sreejesh, a veteran goalkeeper who was making his 250th appearance for India, was also called up.
Pau Cunill's scorching drag-flick proved too strong for the charging Indian defense in the 24th minute, extending Spain's lead to 3-1.
The Indian hockey team, on the other hand, responded three minutes later when Harmanpreet Singh, the match's hero, slotted in a penalty corner to make it 3-2 at halftime.
In the third quarter, India upped the ante, opting for a high-press strategy that had previously worked wonders for the home team. India was awarded a penalty corner for their renewed effort, but Spanish goalkeeper Adrian Rafi easily saved the drag flick and two more attempts.
In the third period, the scoreboard remained unchanged. In the 51st minute, debutant Sukhjeet Singh tapped in a delightful cross from Jaskaran Singh, ending India's search for an equalizer. Spain took the lead again three minutes later, thanks to a penalty corner by Pepe Cunill. India looked into the film for potentially dangerous scenes but was unable to find any.
The Indians dropped their goalkeeper in the final two minutes of the game to help their attack. However, the strategy backfired when the visitors were awarded a penalty corner, leaving the Indian defence without a goalkeeper. Spain won the match 5-3 with no errors.
On the other hand, the women's team was defeated 4-3 by Spain in a Women's FIH Pro League 2021-22. The Indian eves, who are making their FIH Pro League debut this season, entered the match unbeaten in the tournament, having beaten China twice in Muscat and Spain once in the first leg on Saturday.
Sangita Kumari (10'), Salima Tete (22'), and Namita Toppo (49') scored for India, cancelling out Begona Garcia (4'), Maialen Garcia (15'), and Belen Iglesias (24') goals for Spain. Xantal Gine, however, converted a penalty corner in the final seconds to give the visitors the victory.
After letting a lead slip away to lose 2-1 on Saturday, world No. 6 Spain came out firing and took the lead four minutes in. Begona Garcia, who had been outstanding throughout the match, dived in to deflect the ball past Savita Punia, India's captain, and goalkeeper.
India, ranked ninth in the world, tried to respond quickly but was largely on the back foot against Spain's impressive zonal pressing. However, India equalized in the 10th minute thanks to a brilliant individual skill display by debutant Sangita Kumari inside the opposition box.
Spain won three consecutive penalty quarters in the final seconds of the first period. The first two were saved by Savita, but she couldn't stop Maialen Garcia's deflected shot in the third.
Two outstanding goals were scored in the second quarter. Salima Tete's powerful drive and finish in the 22nd minute was canceled out a few minutes later by Belen Iglesias' even more spectacular goal. The Spaniard snatched a clever pass and juggled the ball on her stick a few times before tossing it over a helpless Savita Punia. With a 3-2 lead at halftime, the hooter sounded.
Spain could have extended their lead five minutes into the third period, but Savita Punia made an outstanding save to keep Laura Barrios' penalty shot out.
With a one-goal deficit going into the fourth quarter, the Indians rallied to tie the game at 3-3 in the 49th minute. Namita Toppo bundled the ball inside Spain's net after a goalmouth scramble, setting up an exciting finish to the match.
Both teams went back and forth in search of a winner, and it was Spain who did so in the final seconds of the game. A drag flick from a penalty corner by Xantal Gine deflected off an Indian runner and into the bottom right corner of the goal.
Spain's first win in the Women's FIH Pro League 2021-22 came thanks to a late goal. Despite the loss, India is still third in the standings, with nine points from four games, behind Argentina and the Netherlands. Following that, India will face former Olympic champions and world No. 5 Germany. The matches will take place in Bhubaneswar on March 12 and 13.