Hockey World League Final: India go down fighting 0-1 to Argentina in semi-finalDecember 9, 2017, Bhubaneswar
BHUBANESWAR: It was always going to be a battle of attrition and pouncing on one opportunity. And it was Argentina who converted their lone penalty corner of the night to edge past India 1-0 and enter their maiden final of the Hockey World League Final at the Kalinga Stadium here on Friday. Gonzalo Piellat (17′) scored via penalty corner as Argentina saw off a fighting India in the semi-final.
India will now face either Australia or Germany in the bronze medal match on Sunday.
Argentina adjusted to the adverse conditions better than India. Playing aerial was going to be the order of the night. The Olympic champions created more chances and with the soggy pitch not allowing the pace, they turned to short passes, high balls and were more patient.
They won the battle of attrition. In the 17th minute, Argentina got the first penalty corner of the match and converted to take an important lead. Peillat made the difference with a superb drag-flick to the left of Indian goalie Akash Chikte, crashing the ball into the side-netting.
India attacked through Chinglensana, who picked up the ball two feet inside the Argentine half and found Mandeep Singh but Peillat blocked his shot. SV Sunil had the chance, one either side of the flank, to break free but on a soaked pitch, quick feet weren’t of any help. On both the occasions, the move ended prematurely.
For the final 10 minutes before the end of the first half, India lost captain Manpreet Singh who was given a yellow card for making a diving tackle on an Argentine player. Having the number advantage, the world no. 1 attacked testing Harmanpreet Singh and Birendra Lakra. India managed to retaliate but the Argentines outnumbered them in their half.
The change of ends worked for India as they won two back-to-back penalty corners six minutes into the third quarter. Akashdeep entered the circle but went for Peillat’s left foot to earn his team’s first penalty corner. Rupinder Pal Singh’s attempt went high over the goal while the next fell to Gurjant on rebound but the umpire blew the whistle as the ball hit the latter on the foot.
That followed a period of sustained pressure from India as they tried hard for the equaliser, pushing Argentina deep. 12 seconds before the hooter for the third quarter went, India won a free hit near the Argentine third and a crash ball from Varun Singh evaded everyone and ended inside the cage without a touch inside the circle.
The capacity crowd, which braved the rain and cold winds, waited with baited breath as India launched their bid for a late comeback.
And as has been the feature of this tournament, the Indians went all out in the final 15 minutes, enjoying a whopping 84 percent possession at one stage. The ball hardly left Argentine half, shot after shot went inside the D but the opposition defended like their life depended on it. Suraj Karkera, who replaced Chikte in the second half, headed off to the dugout as India opted for 11 field players.
They almost paid for that decision when captain Matias Pardes hit the side net in front of an open goal after receiving a high ball. The veteran missed a golden chance but as it turned out, the lone goal from Peillat was enough.