| Erik Jazet of The Netherlands tries to block Dhanraj Pillay during their Champions Trophy match in Amstelveen on Saturday. (AFP)
Amstelveen, Aug. 16 (PTI): India blew away a 3-0 lead to go down 3-4 against defending champions The Netherlands in a high-voltage clash of the 25th Champions Trophy hockey meet here today.
India led through goals by Jugraj Singh (44th) and Deepak Thakur (52nd, 62nd) before the home side produced a miraculous fightback to score four times in the last seven minutes. Rob Reckers, Taeke Taekema, Floris Evers and Ronald Brouwer struck in next to no time as the Dutch snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
India did extremely well to hold the fancied Dutch goalless in the first half before stepping up the pace after change of ends to take a firm grip over the game.
Jugraj scored in the 44th minute with a drag-flick. Deepak Thakur was on target twice, first off a Dhanraj Pillay pass and then capping a move by Gagan Ajit Singh.
With the visitors leading 3-0 seven minutes from full time, it looked curtains for the Dutch. But the familiar Indian tale of fumbling in the final stages surfaced as the hosts applied tremendous pressure.
Until Reckers scored, the Indians were right on top. But the Dutch strike tore open the hitherto tight defence and Taekema converted a penalty corner.
Evers flicked home the third — a goal that was hotly disputed by the visitors. In the process, skipper Dhanraj Pillay was sent off on a yellow card.
The Indians’ protest was based on the contention that the ball had not crossed the goal-line when Baljit Singh Saini stopped it. TV replays, however, indicated the goal was legitimate.
Thereafter the Indian team, without captain Pillay and the reliable Dilip Tirkey — who was out with an injury — fell apart to let Brouwer score the winner.
India were clearly the better side on the day, but as Dutch skipper Jeroen Delmee said after the game, a hockey match is for 70 minutes and not 60. For the umpteenth time, Indians succumbed under pressure in the final moments.
During those first 60 minutes, though, the Dutch were imprisoned by some tight marking and wonderful performance by the defence, where goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan stood out with several fine saves.
Aussies hold Pak 4-4
In the first match of the tournament, two late goals helped Australia force a 4-4 draw against Pakistan.
In a fast-paced match, Pakistan just about managed to keep their nose in front with goals by Mudassar Ali (sixth minute), Sohail Abbas (11th, 30th) and Salim Khalid (67th).
The Aussies struck through Grant Schubert (14th, 70th), Troy Elder (32nd) and Dean Butler (68th).