Raipur: A spirited India broke their 33-year-old medal jinx in a major international tournament as they came back from two goals down to stun defending champions Netherlands in the shoot-out after both the teams were tied 5-5 at regulation time in a thrilling bronze medal play-off match of the Hockey World League (HWL) Final here on Sunday.
India last won a medal in an international tournament way back in 1982 when they beat Pakistan 5-4 in the Champions Trophy in Amsterdam.
In the shoot-out, the Indians prevailed over the Dutch 3-2 at the Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Stadium and the win avenged India's 1-3 defeat against the Netherlands in the pool stages of the tournament here.
After starting the match on a slow note, India produced a fine show in the last two quarters to beat the world number two side with their relentless attacks in the second half.
Netherlands were quick to take a 2-0 lead in the first half, courtesy some sloppy defending from the Indians when Mirco Pruisjer (9th minute) and Niek van der Schoot (25th) scored two field goals to silence the capacity crowd.
It was a high intensity match which produced as many as six goals in the last 10 minutes, three each to India and Netherlands.
The Indians, however, got their acts together after the change of ends and Ramandeep Singh (39th minute) scored from a field strike before Rupinder Pal Singh Singh converted a penalty corner in the 47th minute to level the scores.
With both the teams tied at 2-2, the fourth and final quarter produced enthralling hockey as India attacked the Dutch citadel with more purpose and vigour and it resulted in another field goal for the hosts when Ramandeep (51st minute) scored his second of the day to silence his critics.
The last six minutes of the game produced as many as five goals with Netherlands equalising three minutes later through Van der Weerden (54th) who converted a penalty corner.
But in the very next minute Rupinder scored his second of the day when he perfectly converted a penalty stroke.
It was raining goals as India took the lead in the next minute when Akshdeep Singh (56th) found the back of the Dutch net to give India a 5-3 lead. (Photos: Hockey India)
But the Dutchmen did not sit back and fought back valiantly to score two goals in the last two minutes to take the match into shoot-out.
India conceded a penalty stroke in the 58th minute which Van Der Weerden converted with ease. Then, the hosts gave away another penalty corner just 5 seconds from the final hooter from which Van der Weerden again scored to make it 5-5 and take the match into shoot-out.
In the shoot-out, Netherlands scored from their first try through Billy Bakker but Danish Mujtaba and Mohammad Amir Khan missed their attempts to make life difficult for the Indians.
Then it was left to PR Sreejesh to save India and the experienced goalkeeper lived up to the expectations pulling off two brilliant saves to deny Jeroen Hertzberger and Pruisejer before Birendra Lakra converted his try to make it even stevens.
Seve van Ass, son of former India coach Paul van Ass, then converted his attempt which was followed by Indian skipper Sardar Singh's successful attempt.
But Valentin Verga shot wide Netherlands last try before Manpreet Singh earned a penalty stroke for India as his attempt was obstructed by Dutch goalie Pirmin Blaak.
Rupinder made no mistake in converting the penalty stroke and securing the win for India as the crowd went into a frenzy. But contrary to the result, the Indians were slow to get off the blocks and looked clueless as they lacked in co-ordination and basic skill of trapping and passing the ball.
Whenever the Indians got the ball in the opposition half in the first two quarters they looked clueless and in the process failed to deliver the final pass that would have resulted in a goal.
Netherlands, however, did not have best of the possession in the first two quarters but utilised the opportunities that came their way. The Dutchmen took the lead in the ninth minute of the match, courtesy some sloppy defending by the Indians and Pruisjer scored from a goal-mouth melee.
The Dutch side doubled their lead in the 25th minute when van der Schoot's reverse hit from a van Ass pass found the back of the Indian goal.
India soon earned their first penalty corner which resulted in a penalty stroke but it was eventually disallowed after Netherlands went for the referral.
India secured their second penalty corner in the 29th minute but Rupinder's try was saved by Blaak. The Indians secured another penalty corner three minutes into the second half but wasted the chance as Dutch goalie Blaak came up with a double save to deny the hosts.
Five minutes later, Netherlands earned three penalty corners in succession but the Indian defence did enough to hold on.
India pulled one goal back in the 39th minute when an opportunist Ramandeep scored after Netherlands defence failed to clear the ball before Rupinder finally found the net from India's fourth penalty corner.
Much criticised Ramandeep was again at the thick of action when he scored his second goal of the day in the 51st minute from a Danish Mujtaba assist to give India the lead for the first time in the match.
Soon an alert Sreejesh came up with great reflexes to deny Pruisjer but van der Weerden scored from Netherlands' fourth penalty corner to level the scores at three apiece.
In the next minute, India earned a penalty stroke after Rupinder's flick from their fifth penalty corner hit the foot of the last defender and the drag-flicker made no mistake to give India the lead.
Akashdeep then got slightest of deflection to Sardar's miss hit to make the scoreline 5-3 in favour of India.
But some sloppy defending from the Indians and tremendous fighting spirit from the Netherlands took the match into shoot-out as Van der Weerden struck twice in the last two minutes of the match.
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