Bhubaneshwar, Nov 6 (Ajit Weekly News) Goalkeeper Kishan Bahadur Pathak came to the rescue as a below-par India ended the first mini-tournament which started the fourth season of the FIH Pro League on a winning note, prevailing 3-1 via shootout after a 2-2 draw against European stalwarts Spain at the Kalinga Stadium here on Sunday.
Having won twice against New Zealand, the third team in this cluster of matches, but losing 2-3 to the Redsticks on October 30, India went into the match with revenge on their mind. But were lucky to escape with a 2-2 draw in the game of two halves in which Spain missed at least six-seven good scoring opportunities. Pathak himself pulled off five good saves.
However, the hosts failed to capitalise on a 2-0 lead, conceded the advantage, and allowed Spain to control the pace and dictate terms in a dominant last 20 minutes of the match. It was some brilliant saves by goalkeeper Kishan Pathak that helped India survive the onslaught as they came out 2-2 at the end of regulation time.
Pathak was at it again in the shoot-out as he pulled off two saves as India won 3-1 to bag a bonus point.
With this bonus point, India ended the four-match cluster with two wins, one draw and one defeat, taking the top spot with eight points. Spain too have eight points from two wins and two shoot-out defeats.
The Indians played a big portion of the match a man down as they committed several fouls and were shown five cards in all, three green and two yellow. Spain had only one green card in the entire match.
Earlier, India looked on their way to victory as they held the advantage with Harmanpreet Singh scoring both of their goals off penalty corners — the first in the 11th minute and the second in the 31st minute.
The Olympic bronze medallists, however, went off the boil towards the end of the third quarter and allowed Spain to dominate the last 20 minutes of the match. Spain reduced the margin through skipper Marc Miralles in the 42nd minute and then Pere Amat scored off another penalty corner — the shot was saved by goalkeeper Pathak but it ricocheted off defender Jugraj Singh and trickled into the goal — to make it 2-2.
In the shoot-out, India started on a good note as Harmanpreet converted the stroke that India were given after he was fouled by goalkeeper Garin.
Joaquin Menini was thwarted by Pathak and then Raj Kumar Pal made it 2-0 for India with a clinical finish. Pathak saved Rafael Vilallonga’s effort also and though Shamsher Singh missed the third attempt for India — pulled up for a back stick foul, Gerard Clapes pulled one back for Spain to make it 2-1.
Abhishek converted the fourth attempt for India and Pathak ensured victory for the hosts as he deflected an attempt by Spain skipper Marc Miralles onto the post to seal a 3-1 win for India.
This was Spain’s second successive defeat in shoot-outs in this cluster as they had gone down to New Zealand on Saturday, failing to score on all five attempts.
The win in the shoot-out bodes well for India, who are ranked fifth in the world currently, three spots ahead of Spain. The two teams are in the same group for the World Cup and will be meeting again at the same venue in January 2023 in a crucial clash.
The Indians will take a lot from this match as their defense stood tall and absorbed a lot of pressure.
However, there were a lot of negatives too. Though they held 54 per cent possession as compared to 46 per cent by Spain, India could only take two shots at the goal while the Spaniards had nine. India managed to make only 15 circle penetrations while Spain had 35. The Spaniards also led in the penalty corner count, earning more than double the number bagged by India.
–Ajit Weekly News
News Credits – I A N S