India began their European tour after the sudden sacking of their Dutch coach Paul Van Ass. Van Ass had only completed 5 months of his 3-year contract with Hockey India and lost his job under dubious circumstances. In the absence of a regular coach, Performance Manager Roelant Oltmans doubled up as the chief coach, when India arrived at the French city of Le Touquet to play their first match against the French National Side. As it transpired, India won the first match 2-0 and did even better by defeating the hosts 4-1 in the second match at Wattignies Sports Center. With the France League of India’s Hockey Tour over, India arrived in Spain to play a 3-match series with the hosts. But against the strong Spaniards, India lost 1-4 in the first match played in the town of Sant Cugat del Valles on August 10, 2015. Two days later, playing on the same ground, India turned the tables on their hosts to register a fine 2-0 victory with some supreme display.
After their superb show against France last week, the 1-4 loss in the first match on August 10 against Spain had to be taken with a pinch of salt. But on Wednesday, India returned to winning ways and defeated Spain 2-0 with a vastly improved hockey. Both teams adopted the attacking strategy as the match started. Sunil and Akashdeep combined pretty well as they moved up by exchanging good passes. They once came close to scoring but the Spanish goalkeeper came in their way with brilliant work between the posts. Spain also found scoring opportunities in the first quarter but couldn’t convert their chances and the first quarter ended at 0-0. The start of the second quarter was similar to first and Spain forced a penalty corner immediately. However India’s goalkeeper PR Sreejesh managed to deflect the shot. In a quick move soon afterwards, India also earned a penalty corner but wasted it. India continued with the aggressive play and it fructified, when Ramandeep Singh found the target with a clean piece of work in the 17th minute. The pace of the match was quick from both ends but no more goals could accrue in the second quarter.
In the early minutes of the third quarter, India had better ball possession and in the 33rd minute, a good move from India ended with another goal. Ramandeep Singh saw Akashdeep in a good position and passed the ball to him. Akashdeep did not make any mistake and his strike went through as India led 2-0. In the last quarter, India defended their goal very well while also mounting attacks on the Spanish goal. Spain had a chance to pull one back as they earned a penalty corner, but Sreejesh made another brilliant save to deny them. There were field opportunities too, but Indian defense stood strong in foiling the Spanish forwards. The last quarter went goalless and India emerged victorious with a 2-0 margin and leveled the series 1-1. The Sardar Singh led side will play their last match against Spain at Terrassa on August 13 and that will conclude their two-week European tour.
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