Image Credits: @Tokyo2020 / Twitter
Graham Reid's lively Indian Men's Hockey team beat defending Olympic champions Argentina with a display of power, pace and artisty.
There is such confidence running through this Indian team currently that even at the back-end of a game in which they had failed to overly test the opposition via goalscoring chances, they still found a way to get the job done.
This latest job was progression into the quarter-finals of the Tokyo Olympics. Despite seeing much of the ball but without the creation of as many opportunities as they would have hoped against defending Olympic champions Argentina, two late goals from Harmanpreet Singh and Vivek Sagar Prasad Gundogan and an early goal from Varun Kumar cleared India's passage to quarter-finals.
🇮🇳3-1🇦🇷— International Hockey Federation (@FIH_Hockey) July 29, 2021
FULL TIME: Late goals have seen India take all three points, taking their Pool B total to nine. They are now guaranteed a top two finish. Argentina remain 5th, outside the QF qualification places
Match info: https://t.co/YLn7oCDlvy#Tokyo2020 #hockey #INDvARG
India step it up but struggle to find breakthrough
Manpreet Singh and his men were quick to attack in the match and came close when Simranjeet Singh’s pass to Dilpreet Singh inside the Argentinean D was saved by goalkeeper Juan Manuel Vivaldi.
The second quarter started with India putting pressure on the Argentine defence but the forwards struggled to convert, taking too much time and losing possession or going for early shots on some occasions.
In the 23rd minute, India’s Harmanpreet Singh led the attack but an early shot from the left wasted the opening.
The Indians were denied again in the 26th minute when a long pass from Nilakanta Sharma to Mandeep Singh, who stretched to find a deflection but found goalkeeper Juan Manuel Vivaldi in the way.
Argentina counter-attacked, led by Nahuel Salis, but Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh stood strong.
India earned two successive penalty corners in the 41st minute, but couldn’t convert. Soon enough, Argentina countered with Matias Rey, who was returning to the field after a five-minute suspension, going one-on-one with PR Sreejesh. The Indian goalkeeper, however, fended off the attack as Varun Kumar flicked the ball away.
A dangerous tackle on Indian forward Gurjant Singh on the circle got India another penalty in the 43rd minute through a successful video referral and this time debutant Varun Kumar found the Argentinean net to go 1-0 up.
In the last 20 seconds of the third quarter, Argentina defended four successive penalty corners.
Argentina's resistance finally broken
Varun Kumar landed on the scoresheet with a powerful drag flick to give #IND the lead in their 3-1 win over defending champions, #ARG#Tokyo2020 | #StrongerTogether | #UnitedByEmotion | #Hockey | @varunhockey pic.twitter.com/r9gjnGI5aD— #Tokyo2020 for India (@Tokyo2020hi) July 29, 2021
In the final quarter, Argentina got their first penalty corner in the 48th minute and Maico Casella made no mistake to equalise. Argentina got their second penalty in the 53rd minute but Amit Rohidas averted the threat.
Three minutes before the final hooter, Dilpreet Singh’s dangerous pass at close range was shot by Vivek Sagar Prasad as the ball went in hitting Argentine goalkeeper Vivaldi’s stick to get a 2-1 lead.
Harmanpreet Singh’s flawless drag flick got India their third goal in the 59th minute.
India are currently second in their group after four matches with nine points, only behind world No. 2 Australia (12 points). Spain (4 points) are third followed by New Zealand (4 points), Argentina (4 points) and Japan (1 point).
Three points are awarded for a win. Only the top four teams from each group will head to the quarter-finals.
India will play their final group match against hosts Japan on Friday.