India [ Images ] overcame a two-goal deficit to eke out a 3-2 victory over Argentina and finish with the bronze medal in the Champions Challenge hockey tournament in Salta, Argentina, on Sunday.
Their hopes of qualifying for the Champions Trophy [ Images ] dashed after the semi-final defeat to archrivals Pakistan, the Indians were down 0-2 inside the first 30 minutes before V Raghunath (35th minute), Gurbaz Singh (54th) and Dhananjay Mahadik (69th) scored to complete a superb victory.
The bronze medal game started with both the teams taking their time in gauging each other before going on the offensive.
Argentina had a lion's share of ball control and forced a series of penalty-corners, but Indian custodian P Sreejesh was reassuring under the bar.
ff the second one, Pedro Ibarra collected the rebound but sent his shot high and wide. Finally, Facundo Callioni opened the account in the 22nd minute with a shot from a difficult angle.
India tried to shift play into the Argentine half but Callioni hit the target again soon with a spectacular diving deflection.
Stung by the quick goals, the Indians pulled up their socks and started to dominate but could not get close enough to generate a decent chance.
In the final second of play, they earned a penalty-corner and Raghunath converted it, reducing their deficit going into the break and winning the momentum back.
The Indians maintained the tempo and put pressure for the first 10 minutes of second half on their rivals, but Ibarra, Fernando Zylberberg and Ignacio Bergner, backed by Juan Tomas Espinosa in goal, were rock solid.
Argentina had an opportunity to stretch the lead but Thomas Argento's spectacular reverse missed the mark by a whisker.
Meanwhile, India found the equaliser in the 54th minute through Gurbaj after some excellent work along the backline by Tushar Khandker.
Having erased the deficit, the Indians were on a roll and monopolised the ball for a long sequence of skillful play.
Shivendra Singh had a good chance after collecting a long pass but it was finally a penalty-corner by Dhananjay that earned them the lead.
Argentina had a last chance on a penalty-corner, but Ibarra could not cash in on it and India won the bronze, much higher than their sixth entry ranking in this competition.