Gold Coast (Australia), April 8 : India’s men’s and women’s hockey teams enjoyed a successful Sunday as they beat their opponents in the pool stages of the 21st Commonwealth Games here on Sunday.
S.V. Sunil’s late goal helped India’s men’s hockey team overcome a lower-ranked Wales with a 4-3 win in a Pool B match while the women staged a late comeback to stun England 2-1.
In the men’s category, Wales’ drag-flicker Gareth Furlong’s hat-trick had threatened India. India were on the verge of playing second a consecutive draw after the Pakistan tie. But Sunil scored off a rebound from a penalty corner with around two minutes to go.
Furlong’s all goals were equalisers for their teams. His first goal came a minute after Dilpreet Singh’s field goal, a drive from the right in the 16th minute, gave India the lead.
India regained the lead through Mandeep Singh’s tap-in off a penalty corner rebound in the 27th minute. Wales took 17 minutes to come up with the equaliser via Furlong, who exposed India’s shortcomings in defending the set-piece.
Harmanpreet Singh scored in his fourth penalty corner attempt in the 56th minute to give India the 3-2 lead with four minutes left for the end of the game. But Furlong struck again past P.R. Sreejesh to make it 3-3 in the following minute.
India again lost composure and focus after scoring a goal which allowed Wales to launch a speedy counter-attack to earn a penalty corner which was poorly defended by Sreejesh and his defence.
However, a minute later, Wales failed to fully clear Harmanpreet’s drag-flick. Sunil’s first attmept was blocked but he got hold of the ball again before hitting at the empty right post to make it 4-3.
“I am happy with the win but not with our performance because we can do so much better than this. Though we were a better team today compared to our first match against Pakistan, we need to play our A game against Malaysia if we want to see ourselves in the semi-final,” said Indian chief coach Sjoerd Marijne.
India has jumped to the second spot in the Pool B with four points — same as top-placed England but behind on goal difference. England played a 2-2 draw against a gutsy Pakistan in the other Pool B match of the day, with the Asian outfit earning a third consecutive draw to be third in the table.
India take on Malaysia in their next match, a team that heavily relies on penalty corners and on a good day can cause an upset win. After a poor conversion rate in penalty corners against Wales, Marijne would want his team to improve on this aspect.
“We cannot miss any opportunity to score and today there were plenty of those opportunities. But I am hopeful the win today will give us a good moment for the next game,” he said.
In the women’s match, England skipper Alexandra Danson scored in the opening minute to put her team ahead right at the start.
India hit back through Navneet Kaur (42nd minute) and Gurjit Kaur (48th) in the second half to claim a hard-fought win.
England were clearly the superior team throughout the game, hogging most of the ball possession and putting the Indian defence under constant pressure with a stream of seemingly endless attacks.
Despite the pressure, the Indian defenders did well to keep the English forwards at bay with excellent organisation and some tight marking.
The Indians tried to hit back with the occasional counter-attack, but struggled to maintain possession inside their opponents’ half.
Despite their dominance, England’s failure to penetrate the stubborn Indian defence proved to be costly.
India reduced the margin late in the third quarter when Rani created an excellent move before picking out Navneet at the top of the English penalty circle.
Navneet produced an excellent finish, firing between the legs of England goalkeeper Madeleine Hinch to sound the boards.
Rani was instrumental in India’s second goal as well as she earned a penalty stroke early in the fourth quarter after being brought down inside the English penalty area.
Gurjit stepped forward to place the ball into the bottom right corner and hand India the lead.
Desperate to salvage the match, England laid siege to the Indian goal, earning their sixth penalty corner.
England manager Maggie Souyave decided on an ultra attacking approach in the final minutes, taking off Hinch for an extra forward.
But the English efforts did not prove to be enough as the Indians bravely held on for the win.