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India hold nerve, Spain

Friday, 6 June 2014 - 7:00am IST | Place: The Hague (Netherlands) | Agency: dna

Sardar Singh & Co survive tense seconds at the death to earn a 1-1 draw, goalkeeper Sreejesh puts up brilliant show again
  • India‚Äôs Sardar Singh and David Allegre of Spain vie for possession on Thursday

The Indian hockey team sure knows how to make things difficult for itself. Even after the hooter had sounded in their third league match against Spain, for a good 20 seconds the Indian players and their fans had their hearts in their mouth as the video referral umpire watched the last second action in front of the Indian goal to judge whether or not to award a penalty corner to the Spaniards.
The action was played and replayed even on the giant screen before the umpire finally decided in favour of India and the match was deemed as over with the scoreline 1-1 and India had finally scored their first point.

Spanish goalkeeper, Santi Freixa, who had a couple of good shots at the goal, joked at the Press Conference, when asked about India's failure at closing stages. "We hoped they would give us chance, but they did."

A relieved Indian coach Terry Walsh, said, "We finally have a point. And the good thing is we held on in the closing stages where we made mistakes before."

It was once again a tale of missed chances, back by some amazing goalkeeping and often relying on luck. For the third match in a row, PR Sreejesh played the role of Rock of Gibraltar. But for him, India may well have been staring at a third successive defeat. The only goal he conceded came after an unbelievable three saves in quick succession before Roc Oliva finally found the target and the equaliser.

India went into the lead through a penalty stroke conversion by Rupinder Pal after Mandeep Singh was tripped by Roc inside the striking circle in the 28th minute. Rupinder made no mistake placing the ball to the left of Spanish goalkeeper, Quico Cortes.

But India did not have much time to savour that lead, as Spain struck back in 34th minute – that dreaded zone of last two minutes before half-time. After Santi Ferixa, twice, and Eduard Tuabu had a shot at the goal which Sreejesh saved, Oliva hit home fourth rebound with a stinger as Sreejesh was stranded on the side.

Towards the end, Dharmvir Singh seemed to have missed a good chance after being set up very well by SV Sunil in the 64th. Two minutes later another fine cross by Sunil went abegging.

Of India's three penalty corners, one of them was wasted as Sardar messed up his push, while Spaniards failed to convert any of their four penalty corner awards.

Yet, Spain had no less than 11 shots at the goal, while the Indians were found struggling to take a shot or lost the ball while trying to find their man inside the circle. Still, they did have eight shots.

"It was a good game and we had our chance, but we did not take them," said Walsh. On another query on penalty corners, he added, "We have not go so many and that's measure of how good rival defenders have been. But we have also not converted them (whatever we have got). Sure, that's a worry, but remember as I said before this is a young team."

On the referral which went to the video umpire even as the final hooter went off, Walsh said, "Spain took a chance and they have every right to, for that's the way the game has become." But he added, "But I had no doubts that there was nothing wrong once I saw the video replay on he screen."

Sardar once again gushed about Sreejesh, as he said, "He has been very good and he has been solid. He had another superb game. I am sure he will continue that way. His shoulder (which need some attention during the first half after a save) is fine and he is alright."

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