Malaysia: India’s hockey team claimed a 3-1 victory over Canada to move to the third spot in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on Sunday.
India, coming into the match with a 1-5 defeat against world champions Australia, caught a flying start with forward Nikkin Thimmiah scoring in the third minute. Keegan Pereira, however, made it 1-1 for Canada in the 23rd minute.
Later drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh gave India the lead in the 41st minutes before forward Talwinder Singh sealed the game in India’s favour with just three minutes left on the clock.
With this win, India have six points — two more than fourth-placed Canada. Australia are on top of the table with three wins from as many games — they thrashed Pakistan 4-0 earlier in the day. New Zealand, who saw off Japan 4-1, are second on the table with eight points from four matches.
Rolant Oltmans’ India had been criticised for poor show in the two matches so far, albeit they have a young team, bereft of at least six settled players.
However, on Sunday, they turned out in style, right from the push-back. A brilliant pass by Rupinder Pal Singh split the Canadian defence open to allow Ramandeep Singh who set up Nikkin for a simple tap in the third minute.
Chinglensana Singh had another attempt — a superb reverse hit saved by the goalkeeper to ensure Canada went into the 150-second break just a goal down.
The Canadians responded strongly in the second quarter, coming back and matching India strength for strength. Even the statistics showed that.
Canada’s best showing came in the second quarter as they managed a massive seven circle penetrations, and 50 percent of the possession. Appropriately, they scored the equaliser with six minutes of the quarter remaining via Pereira. The two teams walked into half-time level at 1-1.
Rudely awakened, India did not allow any such lapses in concentration in the second half as they came out looking to close the match strongly.
Having not been awarded a single penalty corner in the first half, India managed to win one ten minutes into the third quarter and duly converted it in style. India’s young drag-flicker Harmanpreet scored his second goal of the tournament to give India the lead.
India did not let up in the fourth quarter, controlling the possession and had seven circle penetrations in the final period. In contrast, Canada managed a solitary penetration in the entire period. Another penalty corner by India was saved smartly by Canada.
The quarter saw a brilliant solo effort by captain Sardar Singh hit the post. Winning the ball in midfield, Sardar stormed down almost 50 yards before trying a reverse flick that hit the post and bounced back only to be cleared by the Canadian defence.
Not too long later though, India ensured the result did not change after a Sardar cross, and a Chinglensana mishit, left Talwinder with the clearest of chances inside the box to extend India’s lead to 3-1 and ensured they took home the points.