Ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh continued his red-hot form and struck twice as India defeated France 4-3 in the keenly-contested first hockey Test at the National Institute of Sport and Expert Performance (INSEP) in Paris.
India struck goals through Sandeep, who converted two penalty corners in the 12th and 65th minute, Tushar Khandker (5th) and captain Rajpal Singh (69th), while Fredric Soyez scored a hat trick (6th, 51st and 68th) for France in the first game of the three-match series on Sunday.
High on confidence after their 2-0 series win over Belgium last week, the Indians began aggressively and nearly took the lead in the third minute but for Dharamvir Singh, who fumbled inside the circle.
But two minutes later, India surged ahead when Khandker sailed the ball into the net past French goalkeeper Mathias Dierckems after he was set up by Rajpal.
France retaliated back a minute later and drew parity when Soyez encashed on a defensive lapse by Sarvanjit Singh and Danish Mujtaba to put the ball into the net past Indian goalkeeper Bharat Chetri.
The Indians, however, were not pegged back by the French goal as they continued to attack. The visitors missed a few good scoring chances with Mandip Antil, Amir Khan and Dharamvir guilty of shooting wide off the target.
India got its lead back in the 12th minute through Sandeep, who sounded the board with a fierce drag-flick from the team's first penalty corner, earned after Amir was blocked inside the circle by French defender Thibaunt Blondel.
After the change of ends, France played full court in search of the equaliser but the Indian backline of Gurbaj Singh, Bharat Chikara and Dhananjay Mahadik stood tall to foil their attempts.
However, a brilliant Soyes made it 2-2 for the hosts in the 51st minute after wrong footing Sandeep. It was roller-coaster of a match which saw pendulum swinging from one side to the another till the very last minute.
With five minutes from the end, India took the lead again after Sandeep converted his and the team's second set piece of the day, only to see France claw its way back into the match through Soyez, who scored his hat-trick in the 68th minute from a shot corner
But Rajpal broke the hearts of the home team when he found the match winner seconds from the hooter.