India played its first match in the Athens Olympic, 2004 against Olympic champions, Holland and then team was quite confident of having a good match against the powerful Dutch team. Dhanraj Pillay, as the most experienced player in the side took a lot on his shoulder to motivate his teammates and also to help them in giving a good performance in the match. Dhanraj Pillay was looking to be hungry for getting success in the match. The Holland team started the match on an attacking mode and they were also trying to put pressure on the Indian defence right from the beginning of the match. Their attacking strategy paid off as early as only in the 2nd minute of the match, as Holland scored its first goal. However, the two most experienced campaigners for India, Dhanraj Pillay and Baljit Dhillon then started to pull the things back in India's favour. They made some good moves through the Dutch defence; however, though India had some good chances in the first few minutes, Indian strikers' failure of converting chances into goals denied India from the equaliser. India ended the first half with a deficit of 0-1.
The Indian team came back nicely in the match and made some positive moves in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Dhanraj Pillay was playing wonderfully during that period and as Baljit Dhillon also accompanied him well, the Indians were dominating the Dutch players in the match. Dhanraj Pillay made a superb run through the Dutch defence in the beginning of the second half and after getting past a few Dutch defenders, he gave the ball to Gagan Ajit Singh. However, Gagan tried to run too fast through the Dutch defence and in the procedure, he lost control over the ball and missed a golden chance to score the equaliser. The Indians continued missing the opportunities to score goals in the second half of the match and they soon conceded another goal. The Holland team scored their second goal of the match in the 50th minute and the goal came from a lapse on behalf of the Indian defence. Holland soon scored the third goal and took a 3-0 lead over India within a few minutes. The Holland team became successful to maintain the margin till the end and eventually won the match by 3-0.
The second match of India in the Athens Olympics, 2004 was against South Africa and the team, a bit worried after losing to Holland in the opening match, was eager to have a good show in this match. Dhanraj Pillay was quite confident of giving a good performance in the match; however, India was shocked by South Africa in the first half. The weak Indian defence failed to prevent the attacks of South Africa properly and as a result, India went down 0-2 within the first 25 minutes of the match. However, it was Dhanraj Pillay who decreased the score to 1-2 by scoring the first goal for India in the 27th minute. He scored the goal when a shot from Dilip Tirkey came back to the field after being deflected from a Dutch defender's stick. Dhanraj continued making some superb moves through the Dutch defence after the goal and Baljit Dhillon also accompanied him well. However, though the Indian players became successful to take the ball to the African defence, the South African defenders successfully defended their goalpost. The score was 2-1 in South Africa's favour during the half time.
The second half of the match saw the South African team playing with a tighter defence, though India became successful to score the second equaliser in the 41st minute. Baljit Dhillon successfully converted a penalty corner into goal to level the score 2-2. Both the teams were exchanging attacks and counter-attacks after, once the scores were leveled and India got the much needed lead just 2 minutes before the end of play. Dilip Tirkey scored the third goal for India from a wonderful move and Dhanraj Pillay played an important role in the goal. Though, the South African team went all out to get the equaliser after India's third goal, India got their fourth goal through Gagan Ajit Singh's stick, in the last minute to seal a 4-2 victory for India. Dhanraj Pillay played wonderfully throughout the match and he was also happy after getting the 4-2 victory.
India then played against Australia in its third match of the Athens Olympic, 2004 and the team was confident of having a good show in this match also. Dhanraj Pillay was determined to play well in the match and he wanted the team to win this match to be in a good position in the group. However, Dhanraj Pillay did not play the match right from the beginning, as the Indian coach planned to use him at a later period in the match. The Indian team started the match on a positive note and got the first goal through Deepak Thakur's stick. India increased its speed of attacking on the Aussie defence after getting the 1-0 lead and was also making some wonderful moves. However, the Australian team came back nicely in the match within a few minutes and scored the equaliser in the 11th minute of the match. The Australia team then started to attack on the Indian defence more and more. However, when Dhanraj Pillay came on field in the 16th minute, the Indian team looked to become more confident and Dhanraj started making good moves right from the minute he entered the field. Pillay, along with Baljit Dhillon made some wonderful moves through the Aussie defence, though they were not fruitful. The first half ended on a 1-1 score.
The Australia team started on a highly attacking note in the second half of the match and soon got their second goal to take a 2-1 lead over India. The goal saw the Indians gradually losing the control over the match and taking advantage of this, Australia scored its third goal in the 49th minute to take a 3-1 lead. However, the next three minutes of the match saw the Indian team fighting back brilliantly and leveling the score 3-3. Gagan Ajit Singh scored the second goal for India to reduce the margin to 2-3 and the third goal was the result of a brilliant run by Dhanraj Pillay. Pillay successfully shrugged off his marker in the midfield and ran through the Australian defence to pas the ball to Arjun and Arjun made no mistake to send the ball to the Aussie net. Both the teams started attacking on each other's defence, once the scores were leveled and Australia got the winner just 30 second before the end of play. With the goal, Australia eventually won the match by a margin of 4-3. The defeat endangered India's hopes for making it to the Semi-Finals, as Australia earned 7 points from the match and went close to claim the second spot in the Pool B.
India's next match in the Athens Olympic, 2004 was against New Zealand and India had to win the match in order to keep their Semi-Final hopes alive. The Indian team was desperate to win the match and stay alive in the tournament and Dhanraj Pillay was also eager to get a win against New Zealand. India started the match on a positive note and got some wonderful chance to score a goal. Dhanraj Pillay played brilliantly in the first half and made some superb runs through the New Zealand defence. Both the India and New Zealand teams created some good openings in each other's defence, however, both the teams failed to capitalise on them and the first half remained goalless.
The second half of the match started on a different note from the first half, as the New Zealand team started attacking on the Indian defence more vigorously in this half. They were causing trouble to the Indian defenders and they soon got the first lead in the match by scoring a goal in the beginning of the second half. Dhanraj Pillay and his teammates got into action right after the team conceded the goal and they made some wonderful moves through the New Zealand defence. Dhanraj was looking more dangerous than the other Indian strikers and he also penetrated the New Zealand defence several times. However, India somehow failed to get the equaliser from each of the moves and India eventually got its first goal in the 62nd minute of the match. It was Dhanraj Pillay who brilliantly scored the goal for India from a penalty corner, taken by Arjun Halappa. Then, there was a thriller in the ending moments of the match, when New Zealand team got four consecutive penalty corners, even after the hooter was blown. The New Zealand team scored the winner in from the fourth penalty corner and eventually clinched a 2-1 win over India. India failed to qualify for the Semi-Final after the defeat against New Zealand.
After failing to qualify for the Semi-Final, the Indian team then concentrated on finishing the Athens Olympic, 2004 among the top six teams so that it could get a berth in the Champions Trophy. India played against the teams like Argentina and South Korea in the classification matches and the team was required to win both the matches to get a chance of playing in the Champions Trophy. India played the first classification match against Argentina and the team played the match without the in-form striker, Deepak Thakur. Both the teams started the match on a cautious note, though Dhanraj Pillay was showing signs of playing a brilliant game for India in this match. He started penetrating the Argentina defence right from the beginning of the match and made a wonderful move in the 4th minute, though the move remained fruitless.
None of the teams could score a goal in the first 25 minutes of play and it was India that scored the first goal in the match. The goal was the result of a great teamwork from the Indians and the move was initiated by Dhanraj Pillay. He made a good rung through the Argentinean defence from the midfield to be in a better position and then passed the ball to Gagan Ajit Singh, who was totally unmarked. Gagan made no mistake and comfortably sent the ball into the Argentina net to provide India a 1-0 lead. India maintained the lead till the end of first half. India maintained their control over the match in the second half also and Argentina could score the equaliser only in the 52nd minute of the match.
Dhanraj, Baljit and Gagan continued making threatening moves to the Argentina defence, though none of the moves could be capitalised. Dhanraj made a magical run through the Argentina defence, from the midfield in the 60th minute of the match, after picking the ball just outside the left striking circle. When he was faced with two Argentinean defenders and there was no space for him to move in, he went deeper into the left-hand corner and then hardly pushed to get himself in. Showing his real class, he tapped the ball on to the left, and in the same movement but a second later, he shifted it back on to the right. He made space just on the edge of the circle by doing so and then sent the ball to Gagan, who was in a better position. Gagan Ajit Singh once again made on mistake to smash the ball into the Argentina net.
India was leading by 2-1 with just 10 minutes remaining in the match and just when the Indians thought that India was going to win the match, Argentina scored the equaliser in the 69th minute. The match eventually ended on a 2-2 draw. Dhanraj Pillay was quite disappointed, as India drew the match in spite of playing much better than Argentina. His worries was more than any other, as he played crucial roles in both the goals that India scored in the mach. India claimed the fourth spot in the Pool B, after the drawn against Argentina and the team played in the 5th/6th classification play-offs against Pakistan, after that.
In the 5th/6th classification play-off match between India and Pakistan in the Athens Olympic, 2004, none of the teams became successful to score a goal in the first half. The Indian team was looking to be disheartened after the draw against Argentina and Pakistan took good advantage of this attitude in the second half. Pakistan scored 3 goals in the second half and it scored the first one in the 43rd minute. Then, Pakistan scored the second goal in the 59th minute and increased the lead to 2-0. India was finding it quite difficult to cop up with the Pakistan team and though Dhanraj Pillay tried hard, India failed to create any opening. Pakistan then scored yet another goal in the ending part of the match and eventually sealed the match 3-0.
India then played against South Korea for the 7th/8th positions in the Athens Olympic, 2004. The match was scaled to be the last Olympic match for Dhanraj Pillay; however, the Indian team management surprisingly did not play Dhanraj Pillay in the match, more than 2 minutes. However, though Dhanraj Pillay played for only 2 minutes in the match, the Indian team played well in the first half and scored 4 brilliant goals in the half. Gagan Ajit Singh scored the first two goals for India in the 4th and 11th minute of the match and Vikram Pillay scored the third goal in the 15th minute. Then, Prabhjot Singh added another one just before the end of first half to go to the break with a handy lead of 4-0. The Koreans made a come back in the second half and soon reduced the margin to 2-4. However, Adam Sinclair scored the fifth goal for India in the 68th minute of the match and eventually sealed a 5-2 victory for India. Though, it was not a happy moment for Dhanraj to be out of the team for almost the entire match, the Indian team did end its Olympic campaign on a winning note, finishing in the 7th in the Athens Olympic, 2004.
(Last Updated on : 30-12-2010)
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