Bhubaneswar, April 14 (IANS) An experienced Indian team gave a dominant attacking and defensive performance to outclass their young German counterparts 3-0 in a thrilling game that saw non-stop attacking action throughout the 60 minutes in the FIH Hockey Pro League 2021-22 at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium, here on Thursday.
Penalty Corners once again proved to be India’s greatest ally as they converted from 3 of their 6 opportunities from the set pieces.
Harmanpreet got the first two goals, taking his season tally to 16 goals, with player of the match Abhishek getting the 3rd goal, by getting a deflection on another Harmanpreet penalty corner attempt.
Andre Henning, the German head coach, said before the match that he would be thrilled to get a point from this game given the very young and relatively low experienced squad he was working with and their realistic goal was to learn as much as they could from this game, while Indian head coach Graham Reid warned of complacency, reiterating that any German side, no matter their age, presented a dangerous challenge.
India for their part took their coach’s words seriously and were relentless in their attacks from the first minute to the last. They started the first quarter on the front foot looking to exploit gaps in the German defence and mid field early. They had plenty of opportunities, primarily through Shilanand Lakra and Abhishek who were electric all game, but the German defence was resolute. The first penalty corner of the game went to India and it was Jugraj who took it, but the German defence closed him down before he could get his shot away, ending the quarter at 0-0.
India kept up the pressure after the restart and if anything, their attack was even more dominant in the second quarter. A mazy run by Manpreet Singh resulted in the 2nd penalty corner for India and this time it was Harmanpreet who took the shot and he blasted it to the bottom right corner, leaving the post defender and Stadler with no chance of stopping the powerful shot. Germany had a chance to get a goal back right away from the restart, as a powerful cross into the circle caught Indian captain Rohidas out, and his attempted block left the ball at the stick of Wolff with just the Indian keeper to beat, but his shot went off target and India regained their composure.
2 minutes before the half ended, India got another penalty corner after Glander’s attempted clearance hit the back of his stick. Once again India went to Harmanpreet as Jugraj was off the field, and despite the ball stopping in an awkward position for him, he dragged it close to him and sent a low shot to the bottom left corner of the goal, doubling India’s lead into the halftime.
Indian coach Graham Reid was not very pleased with the half-time score and warned against the danger Germany posed with 2 goals not being enough of an advantage.
The third quarter felt like a repeat of the first as India continued to press and look for a third goal that could seal the game for them, while the German defence, led by captain Martin Zwicker continued to hold steady.
Just as the teams looked ready to go into the final quarter with the game still very much open, India got themselves a penalty corner with 1 second left on the clock and they did not fail to convert it. Harmanpreet again went low to the left and Stadler looked like he had it covered, but Abhishek got his stick right in front of Stadler, and the ball deflected into the opposite side of the goal, giving the German keeper and his defence no chance of stopping it.
With a 3 goal lead in the 4th quarter, India started to slow the pace of the game down. They still were on the front foot, but no longer needed to force the issue. Germany had big stretches of possession in the quarter, but they often looked to find an Indian foot in the circle, but the Indian defence, were excellent at keeping their sticks low and avoiding any foot contact inside the circle. India ended the match without conceding a single penalty corner in a clinical performance in attack and defence.
Player of the match Abhishek spoke of the opportunity a competition like the FIH Hockey Pro League provided to young players like him and said: “It’s great to get chances for India, with a long tournament allowing squad rotations. My aim is to always make the best use of any chance that I get to play for India, and happy to have won player of the match and gotten a goal today.”
German captain Martin Zwicker expressed his pride in the team’s performance and said: “We worked really hard today, and with such a young team this result is nothing to be sad about. We will work even harder tomorrow and hopefully change the result of the game.”
India and Germany will be back in action tomorrow at Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar for the final match of the Indian leg of the FIH Hockey Pro League Season 3.