On Sunday, Raipur witnessed an edge-of-the-seat contest between India and Netherlands for the Bronze medal at the FIH Hockey World League Final. Having failed to register even a single victory in the group stages, the men in blue made it to the semi finals after beating Great Britain 2-1 in the Quarter-finals. They narrowly lost the semifinal clash against Belgium and were up against the Dutch for the second time in the tournament.
In an intense encounter that saw 15 goals being scored, India got the better of their opponents and the Asian champions took home the bronze medal. The score read 5-5 at full time and India edged Netherlands out in the penalty shootout. Heroics from Rupinderpal Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Sardar Singh and goalkeeper PR Sreejesh helped India end their Hockey World League campaign on a high.
FIH Hockey World League Bronze medal match- As it happened:
World no. 2 Netherlands started the game strongly and dominated the opposition in the early stages of the game. Mirco Pruijser opened scoring in the 9th minute when he received a rebound in front of an unmanned Indian goal and comfortably pushed the ball into the goal. The lead was doubled in the 25th minute through a brilliantly executed backhand stroke from Niek van der Schoot which sent the ball darting into the roof of the net.
India stage impressive fightback in 2nd half, Netherlands score last-minute equaliser:
With 9 minutes played in the third quarter, India scored their first goal of the match to keep themselves alive in the game. A quick interception from Mohd. Amir Khan saw the ball being forwarded to Sardar Singh, the Indian captain then changed the direction of play from left to right with a grounded pass to Manpreet Singh. Manpreet then pushed the ball towards Ramandeep Singh, who chipped the ball past the Dutch goalkeeper, into the goal. The Indian team got the equalizer in the 47th minute through a penalty corner where Rupinderpal Singh drove Sardara’s injection to the bottom-left corner of the goal.
Ramandeep was into the act once again in the 51st minute as he responded to Danish Mujtaba’s long hit with a timid deflection that went straight into the goal, thus putting India ahead for the first time in the match. 3 minutes later, Mink van der Weerden made it 3-3 after scoring from a penalty corner and the match could have gone eitherway at that point. India then scored two goals in two minutes to bring the Raipur crowd on their feet, first came a penalty stroke from Rupinderpal and this was followed by a field goal by Akashdeep Singh. Netherlands had made a royal mess of the 2-0 cushion they had earlier but van der Weerden came to their rescue in the last two minutes of the game where he scored off a penalty stroke and a penalty corner to complete his hat-trick and level the scores at 5-5 at full time.
Sreejesh saves three in penalty shootout, India win bronze:
The match was to be decided with a penalty shootout which was a one-on-one battle between a striker and the goalkeeper. Sreejesh, the Indian goalkeeper kept out three out of five strokes but failed to deny Billy Bakker and Seve van Ass, the two Dutch goalscorers. Birendra Lakra and Sardar Singh scored for India and Rupinderpal Singh was awarded a penalty stroke after he was fouled by the Dutch keeper during his penalty attempt. The Indian defender had no problem in scoring from a close range and helped his team win the bronze medal after a dismal start to their Hockey World League campaign.
India 5 (Ramandeep Singh 39′ 51′, Rupinderpal Singh 47′ 55′, Akashdeep Singh 56′) vs Netherlands 5 (Mirco Pruijser 9′, Niek van der Schoot 25′, Mink van der Weerden 54′ 58′ 60′)
India win 3-2 on penalties.