Buenos Aires (Argentina), April 12: India's men's hockey team completed their second win in as many days in the FIH Pro League as Harmanpreet Singh (11th minute), Lalit Upadhyay (25th min) and Mandeep Singh's (58th min) goals helped the visitors outclass the Olympic Champions 3-0 here in Buenos Aires on Monday.
Argentina got off to a great start, raiding the Indian circle in numbers. Krishan Bahadur Pathak, who was playing his 50th international match, made three brilliant saves in the first quarter to deny the hosts from taking the lead. Forwards Macio Casella and Martin Ferrerio's efforts from close range were expertly pushed away by Pathak.
India gradually found their feet in the contest with Rajkumar Pal testing Argentina's veteran goalkeeper Juan Manuel Vivaldi. In the 11th minute, Harmanpreet scored his third goal in two days, drilling a Penalty Corner away from Vivaldi's left and into the corner of the net.
The second quarter saw the Indian defence having little trouble keeping the Argentinian attackers at bay. Argentina saw more of the ball and had more circle penetrations too --21 to India's 19 -- but created few meaningful chances. The visitors doubled their lead with a delightful field goal five minutes before the end of the first half. Vivaldi had initially saved Gurjant Singh's shot after Lalit set him up with a determined run inside the Argentinian circle. Lalit, though, was quick to pounce on the rebound to give India a 2-0 lead.
In the third quarter, India's high-intensity pressing continued to force Argentina into making mistakes. They dominated possession and swarmed all the over the Argentinian defence by regularly finding space behind the full backs. India bagged their third goal two minutes before full time after Shamsher Singh found Mandeep, who tucked the ball into the net despite losing his balance. Pathak deservedly earned a clean sheet while Rajkumar, Shamsher and Hardik Singh put in excellent displays for their side.
"We were a lit bit asleep in the first quarter. We woke up in the second quarter. Controlling possession made the difference," chief coach Graham Reid reflected on India's superb turnaround in the game. The win pushed India up to fourth place (after eight games) in the FIH Pro League.
India will play two more friendly matches against Argentina on April 13 & 14 in Bueno Aires, before they resume their FIH Pro League matches against Great Britain on May 8 and 9 in London.