India scored an early goal but hosts and World No.1, the Netherlands came back strongly to defeat them 4-1 in a closely-fought encounter here in the ongoing men's FIH Hockey Pro League 2022-23.
While Harmanpreet Singh (11') scored India's lone goal, Pepijn Reyenga (17'), Boris Burkhardt (40') and Duco Telgenkamp (41', 58') scored in the home team's victory on Wednesday night.
Riding on a good outing in London last weekend, the Indian men's hockey team, placed fifth in the FIH Ranking, got off the blocks in Eindhoven establishing an early 1-0 lead in the first quarter.
Though the team led by Harmanpreet Singh took some time to shake off the nerves and settle into the game, they showed a good structure that helped them earn opportunities inside the Netherlands' D.
India were awarded a PC after a foot foul by the Netherlands defender in the 11th minute, a deliberate foul in PC defence saw India being awarded a penalty stroke. The in-form Harmanpreet broke no sweat in converting the stroke, fetching India an early lead and also took his individual score to an impressive 17 goals this season.
Backed by a boisterous home crowd, the young Netherlands team bounced back in the second quarter with a fine equaliser through Pepijn Reyenga. He was skilful in his effort to pick up an aerial ball and controlled it well enough to put it past the Indian defence in the 17th minute.
The equaliser put India on the back foot, with the hosts enjoying most of the ball possession. It took India a few minutes to regain their rhythm and foray into the circle with a well-worked attack down the right flank but the hosts defended well to keep the scoreline even. Only seconds before the hooter, the Netherlands found an opportunity to take the lead when they won a PC after a strong counterattack. But a goal was averted by India's brave first rusher Amit Rohidas.
Starting the third quarter in a 1-1 stalemate, the match promised to keep the audience glued to their seats. Bringing cheer to Oranje fans, the hosts dominated this quarter with improved ball possession backed by an aggressive attack.
Minutes into the quarter, Tjep Hoedemakers tested India's defence when he took a shot on goal from close range but India goalie Krishan Pathak was quick on his feet to make a fine save.
In the 35th minute, India made a good attack from the right flank with the ball being pushed across the face of the goal. Only a slight touch would have put the ball in but Gurjant Singh's diving effort went in vain.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 40th minute when the Netherlands managed a PC. Boris Burkhardt picked up a good injection to put it past Pathak. Seconds later, Duco Telgenkamp extended the lead to 3-1 with a well-timed field goal in the 41st minute.
It didn't help that India were down to 10 men with forward Mandeep Singh being awarded a green card seconds before the Netherlands scored back-to-back goals.
Under pressure to score, India began the final quarter with a couple of PCs coming their way but unfortunately could not capitalise on them. They won another PC about three minutes later but could not put it past the Dutch defence.
With India losing the ball, the Netherlands worked a good counterattack that earned them a PC. But Miles Bukkens' flick went wide. The final few minutes remained tense for India, as they hunted for that elusive goal.
While a late surge for India looked bleak at this moment with the Netherlands defence being relentless, Harmanpreet Singh's side conceded a goal in the 58th minute when Telgenkamp scored his second goal of the match taking the Netherlands lead to 4-1.
Though India earned a PC seconds after this goal, Amit Rohidas's flick was off-target. With less than 30 seconds left for the final hooter, India earned a penalty stroke after a stick tackle foul but Netherlands' veteran goalie Pirmin Blaak made a brilliant save off Harmanpreet's flick, ending the match 4-1 in his team's favour.
Next in this three-team mini-tournament, India will take on Argentina on Thursday evening.