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IANS

The Indian women's hockey team fought back brilliantly from a goal deficit twice to hold champion-elect Argentina 3-3 in regulation time of their FIH Hockey Pro League match before claiming a bonus point by beating the Las Leonas 2-1 in the shoot-out in Rotterdam on Saturday.

India took an early lead through Player of the Match Lalremsiami in the 3rd minute. But Argentina came back strongly in the second quarter to level the score through Agustina Gorzelany in the 21st minute before taking lead twice, Gorzelany converting a penalty corner (36th min) and a penalty stroke (44th min) to complete a hat-trick and put Argentina in sight of victory.

But Gurjit Kaur converted two penalty corners in 36th and 50th minute as India roared back to hold the Tokyo Olympic Games silver medallists to a 3-3 draw. This was Argentina's third successive draw in regulation in this tournament.

However, it was India's day as the team, watched by former coach Sjoerd Marijne and skipper Rani Rampal from the stands, rode on two superb saves by goalkeeper Savita to win the shoot-out 2-1. Only Victoria Granatto was successful for Argentina in the shootout while Julieta Jankunas, Maria Granatto, Rocio Sanchez and Agustina Albertarrio failed in their attempts.

For India, midfielder Neha, in her 100th international match, and Sonika were successful while Sharmila Devi and Monika were thwarted by the Argentine goalkeeper.

India thus bagged two points from this match while Argentina got one. India thus moved to 24 points and firmed up the third position in the points table while Argentina moved up to 39 points. World No 1 Netherlands are second with 32 points.

With Lalremsiami a livewire upfront and Neha marshalling the midfield, India started the match on a positive note as they scored an early goal when Lalremsiami came up with a superb deflection off a pass by Deep Grace Ekka in the third minute.

They dominated the first quarter against an Argentina team that has already won the FIH Pro League 2021/22 title and were unbeaten in the event so far.

Argentina, however, came back and levelled scores in the second quarter when Agustina Gorzelany scored her first goal off a penalty corner, beating Indian skipper Savita in the goal. The South Americans, silver medallists in the Tokyo Olympics, dominated possession in the second quarter as the two teams went into the breather tied 1-1. Though both teams managed to take six shots apiece in the first half, India made 13 circle penetrations as compared to 10 by Argentina.

On resumption of the skirmishes in the second half, Argentina went ahead in the 36th minute when Agustina Gorzelany scored off another penalty corner.

However, her celebrations were short-lived as India levelled the score 2-2 with Gurjit Kaur scoring off a penalty corner following some good work by Lalremsiami upfront. Gurjit planted a superb drag-flick into the net foxing the Argentine goalkeeper by changing the angle at the last second.

Argentina bagged a penalty stroke a minute to the end of the third quarter and Agustina Gorzelany stepped up to the score and make it 3-2 for Argentina in the 44th minute.

But the Indian girls continued to fight tenaciously as they levelled the score again early in the fourth quarter when they earned a penalty corner following a foul on Monika, their second penalty corner within a minute after the first was not stopped cleanly. The Indians did not make any mistake this time and Gurjit scored her second goal of the match to make it 3-3.

India could have taken the lead a few minutes later but Salima Tete missed the chance as the ball struck her foot with an open goal in front of her. Argentina too had a couple of chances but in the end, the teams ended 3-3.

India will be taking on Argentina again on Sunday in the second match of their double-header at the same venue.

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