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Thakur's brace helps India beat Argentina

January 19, 2009 12:52 IST

Deepak Thakur's brace scripted India's 2-1 win against Argentina in the first Test of the four-match Series at the Panam National Stadium at Mar del Plata on Monday.

The veteran Indian Oil striker sounded the boards on the 18th and 41st minutes, while Matias Paredes reduced the margin for Argentina in the 65th minute with a penalty corner deflection.

It was, however, the hosts who looked more attacking of the two sides as they forced their first penalty corner as early as in the fourth minute but Indian goalkeeper Baljit Singh foiled Juan Ignacio Gilardi's drag-flick. 

India soon settled down with controlled midfield play from VS Vinaya and Gurbaj Singh constantly setting up forwards Rajpal Singh, Tushar Khandker and Prabhjot Singh. 

India could have taken the lead in the seventh minute when Rajpal sent a sizzling cross to Thakur, whose deflection was well taken by Argentina goalkeeper Juan Manuel Vivaldi and off the rebound, Thakur shot wide. 

Argentina attempted numerous forays with rapid interchanges and overheads but they were superbly checked by deep defender and old India warhorse Dilip Tirkey. 

However, on one occasion, Mario Almada managed to get past Tirkey but Baljit dived to his right to bring off a spectacular save. 

India finally took the lead in the 18th minute when Rajpal intercepted in the centre to set up Khandker. The wily Jhansi lad then pushed to the overlapping Prabhjot who dodged past two Argentine defenders releasing to Thakur who did not make any mistake this time.

Argentina soon had a couple of chances to restore parity from penalty corners but on both occasions, Baljit foiled Pedro Ibarra's flicks.

India nearly scored another goal in the 28th minute after the forwards combined to open Argentina's defence seams but custodian Vivaldi checked Thakur's deflection.

India earned their first penalty corner three minutes later after Gilardi had body-checked Shivendra Singh. The opportunity, however, went abegging as skipper Sandeep Singh could not beat Vivaldi with his power packed drag-flick.

Argentina picked up the match-pace in the second half and created spaces from their midfield where Lucas Rey and Tomas Argento fed accurately to the wings. 

The hosts earned another penalty corner in the 37th minute after a soft giveaway by Rajpal. India was lucky to survive after Gilardi's go at the goal was stopped on the line by Khandker. 

India found the mark again in the 41st minute after Sandeep Singh sent an accurate slapshot into the Argentine circle where it was not controlled by Facundo Callioni. The ever-ready Deepak Thakur seized the opportunity and pushed it past bewildered Vivaldi. 

Thakur again led a sortie, which resulted in another penalty corner for India, The well-executed flick by Sandeep was saved on the line by Matias Vila to India's disappointment.

India conceded two more soft penalty corners as Sandeep Singh was found wanting in his defensive tackles. Argentina, however, could not capitalise as Baljit again stood out. 

The uninterrupted attacks continued on India and Argentina finally reduced the margin when Paredes converted a penalty corner to make it 2-1. 

The second test will be played at the same venue on Tuesday.

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