Sports: India surprises World Cup champions, thanks to a brace by Sukhjeet Singh

Sukhjeet Singh scores a brace in 3-2 win

Team Parvasi – Inside

Putting behind the debacle of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup, the hosts India surprised new World Champions Germany 3-2 as it revived its campaign in the FIH Pro League at Birsa Munda Stadium in Rourkela on Saturday.It was the fifth game each for both India and Germany in the Pro League.

The hero of India’s win and man of the match was Sukhjeet Singh, who at one time, was on the list of World Cup players to be given a break.

His brace was not only a saving grace for India but also a great morale booster for the home team as it had finished a poor joint ninth in the prestigious World Cup.

India, playing without some of the World Cuppers like Surender Kumar, Akashdeep Singh and Mandeep Singh, is now under a new coach from South Africa.

Interestingly, Indian skipper and ace drag flicker, Harmanpreet Singh, who was under fire for not scoring many goals in the World Cup, scored against Germany today to remain the top scorer of the current edition of the FIH Pro League.

India relied on 3 quick goals on either side of the half-time break to take an unassailable lead, and while Germany pulled two back, it was not enough as India took all three points from the encounter.

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India had the better of the early exchanges as with the best chance coming through long run from Manpreet Singh from his own 25 to the opposition’s led to a crashing pass into the circle that snuck into the goal, but Gurjant who the pass was intended for, did not get a touch in the circle before the ball went into the goal. Germany earned a barrage of penalty corners with 5 minutes left in the quarter but great running from Manpreet combined with a fantastic save by Sreejesh going to his right, kept the Honamas at bay. With both defences looking in good form the teams headed into the end of the first quarter on tied score.

Sukhjeet was the best player for India in the first half and nearly managed to get the opening goal as once again a pass from the left by Manpreet split the German defence, but Sukhjeet’s deflection went just wide of Stadler’s goal. Thies Prinz came close to creating a great opportunity for Germany late in the second quarter as he weaved through the Indian defence from the left and got close to the penalty spot, but slightly overran the ball just as he was looking to shoot and ended up losing possession. India won a penalty corner with just one second left in the half and opened the scoring through a powerful low drag flick by Harmanpreet that went perfectly into the bottom left corner of the goal sending them into the break with a slender lead.

India scored their second early in the second half as Jarmanpreet carried the ball out of the back for India and played a long diagonal ball into the German circle where Sukhjeet managed to get ahead of his marker and deflected the ball past a stranded Alex Stadler. Germany threatened from the penalty corners late in the third quarter but once again great number one running by Manpreet Singh kept Germany at bay. Sukhjeet added a third for India in the 43rd minute as Manpreet once again played out of his own half and a long pass into the German circle found Karthi Selvam, whose shot past Stadler was put away by Sukhjeet. Germany pulled one back before the end of third quarter as Sreejesh made a save from Mazkour’s shot but the ball struck the post and bobbled into the path of Kauffman who turned the ball into an empty goal.

India looked to play out the final quarter, dominating possession and territory, but Germany took Stadler off for an extra outfield player with 5 minutes to go and the momentum swung in their favour and they pulled a goal back as Struthoff deflected a powerful slap pass into the circle by Hannes Müller. India won a penalty stroke with 40 seconds left in the game as a shot towards the empty German goal by Dilpreet hit Zwicker on the foot, but the resulting stroke was missed high by Harmanpreet Singh. The miss would not cost India however as they managed to hold on to the lead for the final 40 seconds and get the win.

Sukhjeet Singh was awarded player of the match and said: “Great to win the first game back after the world cup. Really want to thank the crowd for the huge support, this performance would not have been possible without them.”

Prabhjot Singh

NEWS

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