A couple of hours after lowest-ranked Argentina defeated favourites Holland 5-2, Indian players had a spring in their step as they went into their first game against England in the eight-team World Hockey League finals here on Friday.
But it was only after spending 70 minutes on the green turf here at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, did India learn the hard way that over enthusiasm does not necessarily mean a victory as they went down 0-2 despite dominating most of the tie.
The match started on a speedy note as hosts’ midfield kept English defence under pressure during the first 20 minutes. Indian forward Yousuf Affan impressed with his clever stick work, which also resulted in getting two back-to-back penalty corners. However, Rupinder Singh failed to capitalise on both these occasions.
England managed to regroup in the last 15 minutes of the first-half and forced two penalty corners in the 23rd and 25th minute. However, Ashley Jackson failed to get his 50th international goal on both the occasions.
This gave England another chance to forge an attack on Indian defence and garner their third short corner the next minute. And this time, their strategy was well in place as Jackson only acted as dummy and the indirect shot was successfully converted by Adam Dixon instead in the 28th minute.
In the second-half too, the script was not much different. India kept up the pressure from the word go but England scored with Dixon converting yet another short corner in the 45th minute.
Overall, Indians will have to curse themselves for not been able to convert their chances into goals despite dominating the ball possession. The way Indians were all over the field in the first-half, it was almost impossible to imagine that England shut the hosts out in such a short span of time.
India failed to convert any of their four penalty corners, while England put two out of the five came in their way.
The only one which Indian drag-flicker Rupinder managed to put inside the English net in the 60th minute was disallowed by the umpire after a referral showed that first push was not stopped outside the circle by Indian defender Birendra Lakra.
Dixon was adjudged man-of-the-match for his brace. “It was very important for us to start on the winning note. This has certainly boosted our morale for the coming days,” he said after the match.
In the other matches of the day, Australia defeated Belgium 3-2 in a tightly fought game, while Germany had it easy against New Zealand 6-1. India will now take on New Zealand in their second group match on Saturday.
Stopwatch: India 0 lost to England 2 (A Dixon 28, 45); Australia 3 (K Govers 33, 48, J Whetton 69) bt Belgium 2 (T Boon 33, T Briels 53); Netherlands 2 (M Weerden 5, S Ass 50) lost to Argentina 5 (G Peillat 2, F Callioni 8, P Ibarra 56, G Barreiros 60, I Gilardi 67); Germany 6 (C Wesley 1, T Stralkowski 11, 44, F Fuchs 31, T Hauke 45, P Rabente 48) bt New Zealand 1 (K Russell 5)