Raipur: Leaving behind their disappointing league campaign, India produced an inspired performance to upstage World No 4 Great Britain 2-1 and enter the semifinals of the Hockey World League (HWL) Final at the Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Stadium on Thursday.
World No 6 India came into the match as underdogs having finished last in Pool B with just one point. Great Britain, on the other hand, were touted as favourites as they topped Pool A with two wins and a draw.
But having faced a lot flak in the last few days for their inconsistent showing in the league stage, the Indians came out with purpose even though Great Britain had the better share of ball possession and circle entries.
India secured just one penalty corner in the match which was beautifully converted by VR Raghunath in the 19th minute
before Talwinder Singh doubled the lead in the 39th minute.
It was not easy for the Indians as Great Britain fought hard and tried to forge a comeback into the match in the fourth and final quarter when Simon Mantell scored from a penalty corner in the 52nd minute.
Great Britain earned as many as six penalty corners in the match but made use of just one.
India started on a bright note and enjoyed the majority of the possession in the opening two quarters.
The Indians looked far more organised and coordinated and attacked the rival citadel with purpose.
It was India who had the first shy at the goal when Dhramavir Singh’s brilliant solo run from the left flank found out Talwinder Singh inside the box but the striker messed up the opportunity.
Two minutes later, Great Britain had the first real scoring opportunity when they earned their first penalty corner after Jasjeet Singh Kular found the feet of his own defender Raghunath inside the box while trying to clear the ball.
The resultant try from Ian Sloan was saved by Indian custodian PR Sreejesh and the rebound was shot wide by Tim Whiteman.
India’s persistent attack earned them their first penalty corner in the 19th mintute and Raghunath made no mistake in
give his side the lead with a powerful low flick to the right of Great Britain goalkeeper Harry Gibson.
India created a few more opportunities thereafter but the strike force, in particular Ramandeep Singh continued to
falter again and again as the hosts went into the breather with a one goal advantage.
Great Britain did not sit back and put pressure on the Indian defence immediately after the change of ends. Two minutes into the second half, the British side had a shy at the goal but David Condon’s diving try was kept away by an alert Sreejesh.
In the very next minute, Mohammad Amir Khan shot just wide after creating the opportunity himself with a brilliant run from outside the circle.
Talwinder earned a penalty corner for India soon but it was disallowed after Great Britain went for referral.
India continued to press hard and had a golden opportunity in the 36th minute. Ramandeep Singh collected the ball in the midfield and after a fine one-two with skipper Sardar Singh the Indian striker found the top of the bar.
But India doubled their lead in the 39th minute from a counter attack, courtesy Kothajit Singh’s gritty play. After battling it out with a host of British defenders, he managed to take the possession and then set it up with a beautiful scoop pass to Talwinder who scored from a tight angle after dodging past the goalkeeper.
Soon after Great Britain earned their second penalty corner which resulted into another but the second one was disallowed after India went upstairs.
Akashdeep Singh then wasted another scoring chance by shooting wide after he was set up by Rupinder Pal Singh.
Great Britain earned their third penalty corner in the 43rd minute but wasted the opportunity while trying for variation.
In the final 10 minutes of the match the Indian defence crumbled under Great Britain’s relentless pressure and conceded the fourth penalty corner in the 52nd minute from which Mantell scored to make the match interesting.
Thereafter, it was all Great Britain as they mounted numerous raids on the Indian citadel in search of the equaliser.
Great Britain even removed their goalkeeper for an extra player in the 56th minute.
It was tense final two minutes of the game for the hosts as Great Britain secured two penalty corners in succession but the Indian defence kept a cool head to secure their first win in the tournament and also a place in the last four stage.
India will face the winners of the fourth and final quarterfinal between Argentina and Belgium in the semifinal on Saturday.
By virtue of this win, India have also managed to avenge their 1-5 drubbing against Great Britain in the bronze medal play-off match Hockey World League Semi-finals at Antwerp, Belgium earlier this year.
Updated Date: Dec 04, 2015 08:44:14 IST