Ipoh (Malaysia), March 3 (IANS) Argentina’s drag-flick star Gonzalo Peillat scored a hat-trick as India lost 2-3 to the 2016 Olympic champions in the opening match of the 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament here on Saturday.
Peillat scored in the 13th and 24th minutes to give the South Americans a 2-0 advantage but India cut the deficit, thanks to the brilliance of Rohidas, who converted two penalty corners in the 26th and 31st minutes.
Peillat again gave Argentina the lead in the 33rd minute but India failed came up with an equaliser to lose three points.
The 25-year-old Argentine proved to be the difference in a game in which India otherwise had plenty of opportunities.
It was a zestful start by India who looked to dominate the first quarter as their young forwards pushed the Argentine defenders to create space in the striking circle.
India made as many as four circle entries against Argentina’s two and it was Sumit Kumar’s burst into the baseline that gave Indian supporters hope of a first goal within 10 minutes of the match, but Argentine defenders were defiant.
Minutes later, a long ball assist to Talwinder Singh was picked up well but he couldn’t quite make an effective connect to put it past goalkeeper Juan Manuel Vivaldi.
Though India did well to limit Argentina’s shots on the goal, an infringement in the Indian circle helped Isidoro Ibarra earn Argentina the first penalty corner of the match. Peillat’s first attempt was blocked by first runner Rohidas, but the second one was superbly converted by Peillat, who fired to the right corner.
It was penalty corners that Argentina rallied on and it didn’t help India’s cause when they conceded another in the 24th minute. The mistake was yet again punished by Peillat as he broke no sweat to convert — this time hitting past Indian goalkeeper Krishan Pathak to the left corner.
Two minutes later, India won three back-to-back penalty corners and in the final one, Rohidas improvised on Ramandeep Singh’s injection, keeping low, finding the left pocket of the net to reduce the goal difference to one.
Coming into the third quarter, India struck early as forward Sumit Kumar was aggressive in the baseline to fetch India their fourth penalty corner of the match. Rohidas employed a similar flick to the first one to pull India level 2-2.
India’ joy, however, remained only for three minutes as Peillat completed his hat-trick, with substitute Indian goalkeeper Suraj Kerkera beaten by pace and power on to his right.
With the rain trickling down, along with the threat of lightning, the match was halted for nearly 45 minutes. After the game resumed, India fought hard to seek their equaliser. In the dying moments, Talwinder also had a chance to shoot from the right but he fired wide, as India lost by a goal.
Sjored Marijne-coached India will on Sunday take on England, who will look to bounce back after being outplayed 1-4 by Australia.
Dylan Wotherspoon, Blake Govers, Aaron Kleinschmidt and Lachie Sharp struck for Australia.