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Monday, December 14, 2009

India beat Argentina to finish with bronze in Champions Challenge hockey tournament

India overcame a two-goal deficit to eke out a 3-2 win over Argentina and finish with the bronze medal in the Champions Challenge hockey tournament here.

Their hopes to qualify for Champions Trophy dashed after the semifinal defeat against arch-rivals Pakistan, the Indian team was trailing 0-2 inside the first half an hour before V Raghunath (35th minute), Gurbaz Singh (54th) and Dhananjay Mahadik (69th) sounded the board to complete the win.

The bronze medal game started with both the teams taking their time and gauging each other before going on the offensive.

Argentina had lion's share of ball control and the hosts managed a series of penalty-corner but Indian custodian P Sreejesh was reassuring under the bar. On the second one, Pedro Ibarra collected the rebound but sent his shot in the clouds and finally Facundo Callioni opened the account in the 22nd minute with a shot from a difficult angle.

India tried to shift play into the Argentinean half but Callioni hit the target again soon with a spectacular diving deflection. Stung by the quick goals, the Indians pulled up their socks and started to dominate but they could not get close enough to generate a decent chance. In the final second of play, they earned a penalty-corner and Raghunath converted it, reducing their deficit going into the break and winning the momentum back.

The Indians maintained the tempo and put pressure for the first 10 minutes of second-half on their rival but Ibarra, Fernando Zylberberg and Ignacio Bergner, backed by Juan Tomas Espinosa in the goal, looked rock solid.

Argentina had an opportunity to stretch the lead but Thomas Argento's spectacular reverse missed the mark by a whisker. Meanwhile, India found the equaliser in the 54th minute through Gurbaj after some excellent work along the backline by Tushar Khandker.

Having erased the deficit, the Indians were on a role and monopolised the ball for long sequence of skillful plays. Shivendra Singh had a good chance after collecting a long pass but it was finally a penalty-corner by Dhananjay that earned them the lead.

Argentina had a last chance on a penalty-corner, but Ibarra could not cash in on and India won the bronze, much higher than their sixth entry ranking in this competition.

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