Indian men played brilliant hockey on Monday in their second league match against England but it seemed their misfortune would not stop trailing them. For the second time in three days, they lost just as the final hooter was about to sound. It happened in their first match against Belgium and the script was same when they took on England on Monday. In a relatively easier 6-team Group A, India is fifth on points, ahead of Malaysia only because they have conceded lesser goals than Malaysia.
As the match began, mercurial Mandeep and mesmerizing Manpreeet kept England’s defenders on tenterhooks. Deft dribbling and super run-up by these two into England’s penalty area, with help coming from Sardar Singh yielded two penalty corners, both of which were wasted. The closest chance, which could have put India ahead, came from Akashdeep Singh but his stinging drive missed the goal by a whisker. England also suffered a blow in these opening minutes, when Dan Fox had to be taken out of the field on a stretcher after a forceful penalty corner shot from Rupinder Singh struck Fox full on his kneecap. After attacks and counterattacks from both sides, England went into the lead, when they won a penalty corner in the 27th minute. Mark Gleghorne produced a strong drag flick, which sounded the board. But Indians came back into the game in the 30th minute in one of the most fascinating ways. Dharamvir Singh came running into the circle and just when the England goalkeeper least expected Dharamvir to scoop the ball over his head, the Indian finished his brilliant move with a perfect flier that sailed into the goal. The two teams finished the halftime with the score level at 1-1.
On an average, England’s goalkeeper Pinner was kept busier by Indian forwards compared with the Englishmen’s attempts on the India goal. Mandeep Singh, Yuvraj Walmiki, Akashdeep, Sardar and Manpreet combined to make several forays in the English penalty area but couldn’t convert such moves into goals. From England’s side, the charge on the Indian goal was led by Ashley Jackson and Barry Middleton but they found a tough customer in the Indian goalkeeper, Harjot Singh.
When about a minute was left for the final whistle, a drawn result was the most imminent. But luck ran out for India as England earned a penalty corner with every eye on the clock. The goal didn’t come straightaway from England but unluckily for India, Simon Mantell was in a good position to shoot the rebound past the Indian goalkeeper.
In two other men’s Pool B league matches on Monday, Australia defeated Spain 3-0 and Belgium outplayed Malaysia 6-2. In Monday’s women’s Pool B matches, Australia edged out japan 3-2; Korea beat New-Zealand 1-0 and hosts Netherlands were brilliant in their 4-0 drubbing of Belgium. In Pool A matches for women on Tuesday, June 4, Germany beat South Africa 3-1; China beat England 3-0 but Argentina and USA were locked in a 2-2 draw. In Men’s Pool A matches on Tuesday, New Zealand bulldozed South Africa by a huge 5-0 margin, while Argentina stunned Germany 1-0.
The last men’s Pool A game on Tuesday went in the fashion of India’s last minute misery in their two games against Belgium and England. Until the very end, Netherlands were level with Korea 1-1. All through the match the Koreans had been brilliant, despite any support from the roaring home crowd at the Kyocera Stadium. But Robbert Kempermann broke many Korean hearts with his 69th minute goal for a 2-1 victory for the hosts.