India suffered their second straight defeat in the men's hockey World Cup, going down 2-5 to Spain in a fast-paced Pool B encounter at the Major Dhyan Chand National stadium in Delhi on Thursday night.
It was another humiliating defeat for the hosts after the mauling by Australia by a similar margin.
This was the fifth meeting between the teams in World Cup competition, each having won twice. In their last World Cup meeting in 2002 India emerged victorious 3-0. Since then, Spain and India met thrice, with the former winning on all three occasions -- 4-1 at the 2004 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, 4-0 at the 2004 Champions Trophy and 2-1 at the 2005 Champions Trophy.
Thus, play began at a scorching pace, with both teams eager to strike early after having registered just three points after two outings in the tournament. And it was the Spanish who held early ascendancy with some hard running off the ball that rattled the Indian defence. Pablo Amat had the first shy at the Indian goal but his reverse hit went wide.
Spain forced their first penalty-corner in the 11th minute but made a mess of an indirect variation.
The home side appeared to have settled down after yielding territorial advantage early and repeatedly raided the Spanish defence but failed to threaten the goal.
And much against the run of play they fell into arrears, in the 19th minute, following a swift counter attack, as Albert Sala latched on to a long hit from the left flank, tore into the circle on the right and slammed he ball past a narrow gap between the left of goalkeeper Sreejesh and the upright.
India made a strong bid for the equalizer and forced a penalty-corner, their first, in the 23rd minute after Tushar Khandekar was fouled, but Spanish goalkeeper Francis Cortes did well to save Sandeep Singh's flick.
Spain forced their third penalty-corner in the 29th minute, but, like the previous one, the onrushing Indian defenders prevented them from getting their indirect variation correct.
But they scored for the second time on the stroke of half-time. Alex Fabregas caught the Indian defence on the wrong foot with a diagonal pass and captain Pablo Amat was left with the easiest of tasks of deflecting the ball past goalkeeper Sreejesh. In the process, he maintained his record of having scored in all the four World cups he's played in.
Down two goals, the Indians started with a flourish on resumption and were deservedly rewarded with their second penalty-corner. Sandeep Singh stepped up and flicked hard and true to reduce the deficit (1-2).
However, the Spanish hit back immediately, in the 41st minute, from their fourth penalty-corner though Pau Quemada, who flicked the ball high into the Indian cage (3-1).
Ramon Alegre then put Spain high in the saddle with a field goal a minute later (4-1).
But the Indians pulled one back immediately from a counter-attack though Gurwinder Singh Chandi (2-4).
Four goals in five minutes set up a hot pace and the ball moved from goal to goal.
India forced their fifth penalty-corner 55th minute but Sandeep Singh was unable to deliver. At the other end Sreejesh brought of two good saves, thwarting Amat.
Quemada put the issue beyond doubt with his second goal of the match, scoring from Spain's sixth penalty-corner (5-2).