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Men’s FIH Pro League: India go down 5-3 against spirited Spain

This was India’s second loss of the ongoing FIH Pro League season.

The Indian hockey team lost their second leg match against Spain 5-3 in the Men’s FIH Pro League 2021-22 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, Odisha on Sunday.

Abhishek (6’), Harmanpreet Singh (27’) and Sukhjeet Singh (51’) scored the goals for India while Paul Cunill (14’, 24’), Joan Tarres (14’), Pepe Cunill (54’) and Marc Miralles (59’) were scorers for Spain.

Indian men’s hockey team, who had beaten  Spain 5-4 in the first-leg on Saturday, have four wins in the FIH Pro League and are second on the points table with 12 points.

Spain, on the other hand, picked up their first win of the tournament and are placed eighth with three points.

In the second leg, both India and Spain started the match on a positive note, making multiple circle penetrations in the first few minutes.

India, world No. 4 in the  hockey rankings, five places above Spain, broke through in the sixth minute through a brilliant field goal. Abhishek displayed some sublime stickwork inside the striking circle before slotting it in the net.

The lead, however, was short-lived as India conceded twice in quick succession before the end of the first quarter.

First Pau Cunill converted a penalty corner and then a defensive error from India saw Joan Tarres fire one past goalkeeper Suraj Karkera from a distance.

There was a slight dip in momentum in the second period as both sides adopted a more cautious approach and kept possession for longer. Veteran goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who was making his 250th appearance for India, was also brought in.

Spain still managed to extend their lead to 3-1 in the 24th minute as Pau Cunill’s searing drag-flick proved too strong for the charging Indian defence.

The Indian hockey team, however, bounced back three minutes later when last match’s hero Harmanpreet Singh slotted in a penalty corner to make it 3-2 at half-time.

India upped the ante in the third quarter, opting for a high press strategy, which worked wonders for the home team in the previous match.

The renewed intent won India a penalty corner, but Spanish goalkeeper Adrian Rafi saved the drag flick and two more attempts with ease.

The scoreboard remained unchanged in the third period.

India’s search for the equaliser was answered in the 51st minute when debutant Sukhjeet Singh tapped in a delightful cross from Jaskaran Singh.

Just three minutes later, Spain went ahead again through a penalty corner by Pepe Cunill. India reviewed the flick for dangerous play but were unsuccessful.

In an effort to bolster their attack, the Indian side dropped their goalkeeper in the last two minutes.

The move, however, backfired as the visitors won a penalty corner, leaving the Indian defence without a keeper. Spain made no errors and ended the match 5-3.

India continue their home leg against Germany on March 12.

By Aarish Ansari

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