The 36th edition of Hockey’s Champions Trophy got off to a grand start for India on Friday as they led Germany almost throughout the 60-minute game. But the Olympic champions got lucky three minutes before the final hooter in extracting a penalty stroke and the match ended as a 3-3 draw. In other first day matches at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Korea shocked Belgium 2-0 while Great Britain held world champions Australia to a goalless draw.
The India-Germany match was the tournament opener and it began at a fast pace with Germany earning an early penalty corner. However, the Indian defenders did well in rushing out and blocking the effort. India went for the counter in the fifth minute but Akashdeep Singh’s shot was easily blocked by the German goalkeeper Tobias Walter. In the next minute, India took a 1-0 lead, when V Raghunath converted India’s first penalty corner with a drag flick that kept low and struck the left corner with Walter’s outstretched hand not being able to stop the ball. However, the Germans came back strongly within two minutes and nearly found the equalizer. But India captain and goalkeeper PR Sreejesh averted the danger by diving to his left and blocking the attempt in the crowded goal area. In the 18th minute, Indians broke into a celebration, when SV Sunil collected a diagonal ball in the circle and shot into the goal. But the video umpire ruled that the ball had touched Sunil’s foot and the goal was disallowed. In the 25th minute, Germany found the equalizer by a penalty corner conversion, when the Tom Grambusch drag flick struck Sreejesh’s pads and rolled into the goal. Germany’s pleasure was short-lived as India went into the lead yet again in the very next minute. PV Sunil ran brilliantly from the right flank and entered the circle before creating space around him. He found Mandeep in a great position and passed the ball to him. Mandeep made no mistake in flicking the ball past Tobias Walter.
After halftime, India consolidated further through Harmanpreet Singh’s penalty corner in the 32nd minute. However, India’s shaky defense was their undoing and they conceded a penalty corner in the 36th minute, from which the Germans clawed back to 3-2. Once again, it was Tom Grambusch, who reduced the deficit by beating Srijesh. Regardless, India kept the 3-2 lead until the 57th minute but a costly error from the defenders allowed Germany to draw level. Germany were awarded their ninth penalty corner in 57th minute, and the ball struck defender Pradeep Mor on the body. From the resulting penalty stroke, Jonas Gomoll took the final score to 3-3 and India had to rest content with the draw in their opening fixture.
In the second match of the 6-nation tournament, Belgium were shocked by Korea. Belgium didn’t have the services of their penalty corner stars Tom Boon and Loick Luypaert, who were sidelined due to injuries and 9 penalty corners coming their way in the match went abegging. Korea’s 2-0 victory came from strikes by Yang Jihun and Jung Manjae. Koreans went into the 1-0 lead from a penalty corner by Yang at the stroke of halftime and doubled their lead, when Jung scored a field goal in the third quarter. The 0-2 loss was a setback for the world no.5 Belgium. In the last match of the day, hosts Great Britain fought hard and held world champions Australia to a 0-0 draw. On Saturday, Australia take on Korea, India will play against Great Britain and Belgium and Germany square up for their second game. The first and second placed teams, after the round-robin Group matches, will contest the final on June 17.
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