India was held to a 2-2 draw against Argentina’s junior national team here on Sunday, in the first contest of its tour of Argentina. Goals from young Indian striker Sharmila Devi (22nd minute) and the experienced Deep Grace Ekka (31st minute) were cancelled out by strikes from Argentina’s Paula Santamarina (28th) and Brisa Bruggesser (48th).
Chief coach Sjoerd Marijne lauded the performance of the Indian team which was returning to international competition after a year following a COVID-19-induced break. “It was a typical first match after a long gap. Playing a competitive side after a year takes time to get into the rhythm and we played 23 athletes to give them all a feeling of playing in a match after a long gap,” Marijne said.
India displayed an intent to attack in the first quarter. The team won two back-to-back Penalty Corners (PC) in the eighth and the ninth minute of play but they were well-defended by a strong Argentine defence. Argentina was awarded a PC in the 11th minute, but it was swiftly saved by the alert India custodian, Savita.
The second quarter saw India set up a fine goal via Sharmila that handed the team a 1-0 lead. Santamarina of Argentina scored in the 28th minute to equalise.
India regained its lead soon after the second quarter when Ekka converted a PC. The visiting team defended well to keep up the 2-1 lead all through the third quarter and carried a good rhythm into the final quarter. The home team bounced back in the final quarter to equalise with a fine goal by Bruggesser in the 48th minute.
‘Need to build on rhythm’
Though India tried to create one last haul before the final hooter, the home team’s defence stood strong. A PC awarded to India in the 53rd minute was saved well, eventually ending the match with a 2-2 scoreline.
“We will need to build on our rhythm match-by-match. We will be thoroughly analysing this match and the key will be to learn from the mistakes we made here and be ready for the next game,” Sjoerd said.
India will take on the Argentina junior women on January 20.