The Indian men’s hockey team survived some anxious moments before prevailing 3-2 over New Zealand and get their campaign off to a winning start in Tokyo Olympics, but chief coach Graham Reid was satisfied with the full points to start with.
“Winning three points in a competition like the Olympic Games is really important. I think we had a good second and third quarter but the first and fourth we struggled a little bit. When we watch the video later today, we will be able to find out what we need to get better at and surely there are going to be things we learn from today too,’’ said the Australian who had been associated with the team for long now.
‘‘At the end of the day, we haven’t played for 3-4 months in an international competition, that’s the reality. As far as the weather was concerned, the players handled it really well. We probably could have put away the first few opportunities we created. It may have made the game a little less close. I think that is what we need to focus on. We did well in converting the penalty corners, but we need to look at reducing the numbers of penalty corners we gave away,’’ he told the media after the match.
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‘‘About playing Australia on Sunday, they are always a tough competitor. We have half a day today to have a look at both the games. We have already prepared for Australia back in Bangalore but watching the video will always help us see what new tactics they have now. It will be a tough game tomorrow and our players are up for the challenge. It’s always good to win the first game at the Olympics and get the three points on board.”
While it was Rupinder Pal Singh who opened the scoring for India in the 10th minute, Harmanpreet Singh extended the lead in the 26th and 33rd minutes, respectively, but it was experienced goalkeeper PR Sreejesh who saved the day for India with excellent work in the goal post to stop New Zealand from converting an equaliser in the dying minutes of the match.
World champions Belgium defeated the Netherlands 3-1, thanks to a stunning hat-trick from Alexander Hendrickx, while Australia beat hosts Japan in a thrilling opening game.
Hendrickx scored three goals in five minutes as the Belgians came back from a goal down to take revenge on the side that beat them in the semi-finals of the Euro Championship last month.
Indian women fizzle out
Later in the day, Indian women, ranked 9th in the world, matched world No. 1 Netherlands in the first half but their challenge fizzled out as the Dutch cantered to a 5-1 win in a Group A match.
The Dutch took lead through Maria Verschoor in the sixth minute but were stunned when India scored the equaliser four minutes later through skipper Rani Rampal. The Indians then kept the Netherlands at bay in the remaining part of the first quarter and the entire second quarter to go to half-time 1-1.
However, the reigning world champions and 2016 Olympics runners-up got control of the match and went on a goal-scoring spree in the second session, scoring four goals to hand India a big defeat.
Men (Played on Saturday)
Australia 5 Japan 3
India 3 New Zealand 2
Belgium 3 Netherlands 1
Argentina 1 Spain 1