Spain are a much improved side under coach Max Caldas after their eight–place finish at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics – they showed ample proof that they have the ammuntion to not just match but also outstrip the best in the business in the third edition of the FIH Pro League. At the 2022-23 FIH Pro League, Spain maintained their ‘improvement momentum’ first nailing out a 3-2 win over New Zealand, and subsequently rode on a late match-winner to break the Indian hearts at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar.
India were expected to come out all guns blazing after their stellar come-from-behind win over New Zealand but Spain resorted to strong tactical play – they assumed control over the midfield and kept India at bay. If the opening quarter was a tedious affair, the Redsticks enlivened proceedings when De Ignacio-Simo Eduard slotted home a penalty corner rebound after Sreejesh made a good save in what was otherwise a forgettable day for him.
Spain captain Marc Miralles, who scored a sizzling hat-trick against India in the third edition of the FIH Pro League earlier this year, belted home a short corner to double the lead even as Sreejesh made a mess of things letting the ball roll in after grazing his pads. India’s ripose was swift- captain Harmanpreet Singh converted a penalty corner almost immediately to keep the Indian spirits high at the half-time break.
It is not often that Sreejesh is overshadowed by second-choice Krishan Pathak, who showed he has the skills to take over the goalkeeping mantle from Sreejesh in future. It was due to his stout goalkeeping in the third quarter that India stayed in the contest or else the scoreline could have been different. India summoned desperate measures in pursuit of the equaliser – Harmanpreet Singh created the opportunity drilling in a pass to Abhishek, who weaved around the ‘D’ and unleashed a shot that brooked no answer from Spain goalkeeper Rafi Adrian.
The Indian equaliser proved short-lived as the Red brigade stormed ahead with just three minute left as Marc Reyne made the most of a pass inside the ‘D’ and came up with a tomahawk that breached the defences of Krishan Pathak, who had a great day in the Indian cage. Coach Graham Reid would his side to pull up their socks and come up with more robust performances in next week’s games against New Zealand and Spain.