Returning to the big stage after a gap of eight years, erstwhile champions India put up a brave fight before going down 2-3 against the formidable Netherlands in their opening Group B match of the men's hockey competition at the Olympics here today.
Ranked 10th in the world, the Indians meant business as third ranked Netherlands had to sweat it out to start their campaign on a winning note.
The first half, however, did not go according to the script for the Indians as they conceded two goals to go into the breather trailing 0-2. Robert van der Horst (20th minute) opened the scoring for the Dutch with a fierce hit from top of the circle and then Roderick Weusthof doubled the margin nine minutes later, converting a penalty corner.
The Indians, however, came out with vengeance after the change of ends and scored two goals within a span of three minutes to level the scoreline.
Dharanvir Singh (45th minute) scored India's first goal after capitalising on a rebound and then striker Shivendra Singh tapped home from close quarters three minutes later after receiving a ball from Gurvinder Singh Chandi. But it was not to be India's day as Mink van der Weerden converted another penalty corner in the 51st minute to restore Netherlands' lead.
Thereafter, the Indians pressed hard in search of the equaliser which eluded them inspite of getting numerous chances. India will next play New Zealand in their second group match on Wednesday, while the Netherlands will be up against Belgium the same day.