FIH Pro League (M): India lose 1-2 as Netherlands claim title

India's outside chance at a maiden FIH Pro League title ended with a 1-2 loss to Netherlands Hockey India

The Indian men's hockey team saw their FIH Pro League title hopes end after suffering a hard-fought 1-2 defeat against the Netherlands in the second match of the two-leg tie in Rotterdam on Sunday.

India had lost 1-4 to the Dutch in the shoot-out on Saturday after the score was 2-2 in regulation time. The visitors needed an outright win over the Netherlands to have an outside chance of clinching the tile, but it was not to be. The home side confirmed their FIH Pro League (M) title with 35 points from 14 games, with two games still in hand.

Olympic champions Belgium finished second with 35 points from 16 games, while India occupied the third spot with 30 points from 16 matches.

India started on a strong note, taking the lead inside 30 seconds with a brilliant field goal by Abhishek. He collected the ball in the right flank and dodged past four defenders with brilliant stick-work, following it up with a strike past Netherlands' second goalkeeper Mauritzs Visser.

The Indians put the Dutch defence under persistent pressure from the start and dominated the early share of exchanges. However, the Netherlands forged their way into the game by levelling the scores in the seventh minute through a penalty corner conversion by Jip Janssen.

It was end-to-end hockey between the world No. 3 Netherlands and world No. 4 India, with both the teams matching each other.

The Netherlands were patient inside the India circle, and by doing so, secured another penalty corner in the 11th minute, which veteran goalkeeper PR Sreejesh kept at bay. The home side secured three more penalty corners but failed to breach the Indian defence.

In the 14th minute, India secured a penalty stroke but Harmanpreet Singh's flick was saved by the Dutch custodian. The hosts managed another PC soon but Sreejesh came to India's rescue once more. Two minutes from half time, India managed back-to-back penalty corners but their opponents defended stoutly.

The third quarter too produced enthralling hockey but both teams failed to score until the 45th minute, when Jorrit Croon sounded the board from a set piece to hand the hosts a 2-1 lead.

Trailing by a goal, the Indians gave their all in the fourth and final quarter, and created numerous scoring chances in the form of penalty corners but failed to convert their opportunities. In the 47th minute, Varun Kumar's flick from a penalty corner was saved by the Dutch keeper. Visser was brilliant in front of Netherlands goal, making numerous saves, throughout.

Four minutes from the hooter, India secured a penalty corner, but failed to convert once more, thus finsishing second best for the second consecutive day.