India went down 2-3 to Olympic champions Argentina in the opening match of the 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey. Star drag-flicker Gonzalo Peillat (13th, 23rd, 33rd minute) scored a hat-trick for Argentina while Amit Rohidas (24th, 32nd) converted two penalty corners for India.
The play was stopped for nearly an hour in the fourth quarter due to heavy rain and thunderstorm.
India dominated the first quarter as their young forwards pushed the Argentine defenders to create space in the striking circle. Talwinder Singh and debut player Sumit Kumar were impressive as they attempted to beat Argentina's experienced goalkeeper Juan Vivaldi early in the match.
India made as many as four circle entries against Argentina's two and it was Sumit Kumar's burst into the baseline that gave India hopes of a first goal within the first ten minutes of the match, but Argentine defenders were defiant.
Minutes later, a long ball assist to Talwinder was picked up well but he could not quite make an effective connect to put it past Vivaldi.
Though India did well to limit Argentina's shots on goal, an infringement in the Indian circle helped Isidoro Ibarra earn Argentina the first penalty corner of the match. With world-class drag-flicker Peillat in their ranks, giving away PCs meant trouble for India.
Peillat's first attempt was blocked by first runner Amit Rohidas. But the second PC was superbly converted by Peillat in the 13th minute to give Argentina a 1-0 lead.
It was the PCs that Argentina rallied on and it did not help India's cause when they conceded another penalty corner in the 24th minute. The mistake was punished by Peillat yet again as he broke no sweat to convert.
A diving Indian goalkeeper Krishan Pathak could do little to save the powerful dragflick.
Two minutes later, India won three back-to-back PCs. After the first two attempts had to be re-taken due to infringement, India were third-time lucky as Amit Rohidas improvised on Ramandeep Singh's injection, keeping low, finding the left pocket of the net.
The 26th-minute goal narrowed the deficit to 1-2 and India did well in the following minutes to keep Argentine forwards in the hunt. Though they forced India to make an error in the circle, winning yet another PC in the 27th minute, the attempt was brilliantly blocked by India's first runner.
Coming into the third quarter, India struck early as forward Sumit Kumar was aggressive in the baseline to fetch India their fourth PC of the match. Previous goal scorer Amit Rohidas made no mistake as he converted in similar fashion giving India the much needed 2-2 equaliser in the 31st minute.
It was all about PCs for Argentina as Peillat struck his third goal in the 34th minute, taking Argentina's lead to 3-2.
With rain trickling down in the fourth quarter, the match was stopped for nearly an hour. After resumption, India fought till the final hooter but their desperate attempts to score went in vain with Argentina keeping the lead.