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Indians go down fighting

By Our Sports Reporter

HYDERABAD, DEC. 23. The youthful Indians dominated but it was France which emerged a hard-fought, 2-1 winner in the second hockey `Test' at Gachibowli as the visitor made most of the scoring chances in the final phase of the contest.

It was a refreshing change in the attitude of the IHF Development Juniors XI and may be it was because of the decision of chief coach Narinderpal Singh to rest seven players, who featured in the first match. For the host, though Ajitesh Rai and V. Raja were enterprising they lacked precision inside the `D'.

That the Indian defence manned by Sivabalan and Anup Kulu with support from custodian Raja Rajan kept the rival forwardline at bay and conceded just one penalty-corner in the first-half was itself a proof of its efficacy.

Fumbles by Bharath

In fact, India should have been 2-0 up at half-time. On both the occasions, it was Bharath who messed it up on the right-flank. He was not just able to show the desired anticipation to the two speedy runs down the centre by Ajitesh Pai who showed good dribbling skills to get the better of the crowded French defence.

And, when he essayed two perfect quick passes to the right, Bharath wasted both of them in front of an open goal. He seemed to have been caught in a dilemma how to complete the job and the final effort — falling one turned to be a failing effort as he was off target by 15th minute of first-half.

The two teams were locked goalless at the break.

Perfect groove

But to the chagrin of the Indian camp, the French were not perturbed. Surprisingly, they moved into a perfect groove in the second-half with the wily Gouedard Conte Antoine and Durchan Florent working in tandem with good support from the wings by captain Moreau Antoine and Branquart Gerome. Not surprisingly, France moved ahead in the 50th minute courtesy a penalty-corner conversion by Moreau Antoine.

In a clever change of strategy, the powerfully-built French seniors virtually resorted to intimidatory tactics with emphasise on body-tackles to unsettle the young Indian outfit. It paid dividends as France made it 2-0 with Gouedard Conte Antoine weaving his way into the Indian striking zone to essay a delectable carpet drive from a difficult angle to find the target.

Just when the few spectators were preparing to leave the venue, local boy Nityjayanand delighted them with a fine sense of opportunism. After his angular hit from the right of `D' was blocked by the diving French custodian Becuwe Amaud, the Hyderabad forward seized on that to gently tap the ball into the goal in the dying minutes to reduce the margin.

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