India beat Olympic hockey champions Argentina in first practice match

Nilakanta Sharma, Harmanpreet Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh and Varun Kumar scored for India in the first practice match of the Argentina Tour.

By Utathya Nag ·

The Indian men’s hockey team, on Tuesday, edged past reigning Olympic champions Argentina 4-3 in their first practice match at Buenos Aires.

Nilakanta Sharma (16'), Harmanpreet Singh (28'), Rupinder Pal Singh (33') and Varun Kumar (47') shared the goal-scoring duties for the visiting team. Leandro Tolini (35' and 53') and Maico Casella (41') found the net for the hosts.

After a slow and goalless first quarter, India upped the ante in the second and capitalised in the 16th minute. Some brilliant work from Shilanand Lakra set up Nilakanta Sharma for the opening goal of the match.

Spurred on by the early lead, India pushed the hosts on the backfoot. Argentina, however, gradually came back in the contest but India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh pulled off some good saves to deny the home team any joy.

Indian forwards, meanwhile, continued chipping at the Argentina defence. Dilpreet Singh won India a penalty corner in the 28th minute and Harmanpreet Singh ensured he extended India's lead to 2-0 with a brilliant strike.

Argentina mounted a comeback in the third quarter and pulled a goal back in the 32nd minute through Leandro Tolini, who converted a penalty corner.

India, though, restored their two-goal advantage in the 33rd minute. Jaskaran Singh won the penalty corner and Indian dragflicker Rupinder Pal Singh made sure he beat the Argentine goalkeeper.

Argentina, however, ended the quarter with another goal in the 42nd minute through Casella. Though the hosts tried hard for an equaliser, young India goalkeeper Krishan Pathak was alert to the dangers. 

The final quarter was tense. With Argentina throwing the kitchen sink at them, India protected their lead with poise. In the 47th minute, India's Dilpreet Singh set up a fine penalty corner which was converted by Varun Kumar, who was returning to the squad after a hamstring injury.

Argentina's Tolini reduced the deficit to 4-3 in the 53rd minute but India ensured no more lapses till the final hooter ad saw the game off.

India will play their second practice match against Argentina on Wednesday, April 7.

The Indian team is scheduled to play six matches against Argentina during their 16-day tour, including the double-header FIH Hockey Pro league matches on April 11 and 12.