Men’s FIH Pro League: Netherlands beat India to secure title

The Indian hockey team, who needed a win to keep their faint title hopes alive, lost the match 2-1. India finished third on the FIH Pro League table.

By Utathya Nag
Picture by Hockey India

The Indian men’s hockey team lost to Netherlands 2-1 in its final FIH Pro League 2021-22 match at the Hazelaarweg Stadion in Rotterdam on Saturday.

Abhishek (0’) gave India an early lead but Janssen Jip (6’) and Croon Jorrit (44’) gave the Netherlands the win and the title.

The result crowns the Netherlands as the FIH Pro League winners for the season. The Dutch have 36 points from 14 matches while second-placed Belgium, the reigning Olympic champions, have 35 points after playing their full quota of 16 matches. The Netherlands still had two matches against Spain in hand.

India, meanwhile, finished third, their best-ever finish in the competition, with 30 points from 16 outings. In the previous edition, the Indian hockey team finished fourth in their debut season.

Heading into the match, India needed to win by a big margin to keep their FIH Pro League title hopes alive.

The solitary point from the match takes India’s tally to 30 from 15 matches and virtually rules Manpreet Singh and Co. out of the three-way title race against the Netherlands and Belgium.

India struck first with what was their opening move of the match. It was a wonderful solo effort from Abhishek who carried the ball up the right flank, cut in with a nifty bit of skill and finished past the Dutch goalkeeper.

The lead, however, lasted only six minutes as Janssen Jip beat PR Sreejesh from a penalty corner to bring the Netherlands level.

Early in the second quarter, India missed a golden opportunity to retake the lead after winning a penalty stroke after an infringement inside the Dutch circle. The ever-reliable Harmanpreet Singh, though, failed to convert from the spot as Dutch goalie Visser Maurits guessed it right.

The Netherlands, meanwhile, carved out their own share of chances. After debutant Pawan, who had replaced PR Sreejesh in the India goal, made a magnificent save to keep out a penalty corner, De Mol could only manage to rattle the crossbar from the rebound.

Pawan was particularly impressive for India in the second quarter as the debutant pulled off multiple good saves to keep the score level till the half-time hooter.

The game slowed down a little compared to the frantic pace of the first half, as both teams tried to take a more cautious possession-based approach.

The deadlock was finally broken in the final seconds of the quarter after Croon Jorrit flicked the ball past PR Sreejesh from a penalty corner.

The fourth quarter was a scrappy affair, with both defences needing to defend a flurry of penalty corners. With Harmanpreet Singh off the field for the bulk of the quarter after sustaining an injury, India’s set-piece prowess was severely diminished.

The scoreline remained 2-1 till the final whistle.

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