India blew away a 3-0 lead conceding four goals in the last seven minutes to go down 3-4 against defending champions Holland in their high-voltage opening match of the 25th Champions Trophy hockey tournament at Amstelveen.
In a dramatic final few minutes when India led 3-0 on goals by Jugraj Singh (44th) and Deepak Thakur (52nd and 62nd), the home side came up with a miraculous fightback. The hosts snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as Rob Reckers, Taeke Taekema, Floris Evers and Ronald Brouwer struck in quick succession.
Earlier, two late goals helped Australia force a 4-4 draw with Pakistan in the opening match. In a fast paced encounter, Pakistan thrice squandered a two-goal lead to allow Australia to salvage an honourable draw.
Mudassar Ali (6th minute), Sohail Abbas (11th, 31st) and Salim Khalid (63rd) scored for Pakistan while the Aussies struck through Grant Schubert (14th, 70th), Troy Elder (32nd) and Dean Butler (64th).
India did extremely well to hold the fancied Dutch goalless in the first-half before stepping up the pace after the change of ends to take a firm grip on the game.
Jugraj came good with a drag-flick to give India the lead in the 44th minute, and then substitute Thakur was on target, first off a Dhanraj Pillay pass and then capping a move by Gagan Ajit Singh.
With the visitors leading 3-0 with seven minutes remaining, it looked curtains for the Dutch. But the familiar Indian tale of fumbling in the final stages surfaced as the hosts applied tremendous pressure to score four goals to author an amazing comeback.
Until Reckers scored, the Indians were right on top. But the Dutch strike tore open the hitherto tight Indian defence and Taekema converted a penalty corner and then Evers flicked home the third that was hotly disputed by the visitors. In the process, skipper Dhanraj Pillay received a yellow card suspension.
The Indian players protested that the ball had not crossed the goal-line when half-back Baljit Singh Saini stopped it. However, the television replays available in the media centre here indicated that the goal was legitimate.
Thereafter, the Indian team, without captain Pillay and reliable Dilip Tirkey, who was out for the count owing to an injury, fell apart to let Brouwer score the winner just before the hooter.
On the day, the Indians were clearly the better side, but as the Dutch skipper Jeroen Delmee was to say after the game, a hockey match is for 70 minutes and not 60. Thus, for the umpteenth time, they succumbed under pressure in the final moments.
But during those 60 minutes, the Dutch were imprisoned by some tight marking and wonderful performance by the deep defenders, specially goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan who brought off several fine saves to keep his side afloat.
The Indian midfield gave little away while the front line was a source of constant danger to the Dutch defence.
In contrast, the Dutch hardly looked a settled side and the early miss by Bram Lomans, who hit the cross-bar with the penalty corner drag-flick, added to their woes as they struggled right through until Reckers opened the fllodgates in the 64th minute.