Riding high on two goals by 20-year-old Dharamvir Singh, the Indian men finally showed signs of life in their otherwise average performance in the Commonwealth Games thus far. An emphatic 4-0 win against minnows Scotland in the hockey Pool A league match was a perfect example of what the hosts are capable of, going into a must-win match against Pakistan on Sunday.
Showing good intent to attack, the match began with Indian players gunning for goal from the onset. Playing from the flanks, Indian strikers – Tushar Khandekar, skipper Rajpal Singh and Sarvanjit Singh — tormented the opposition defence with nagging persistence.
Their efforts bore fruit as early as in the seventh minute when a Shivendra Singh shot on goal took the slightest of deflections from Sarvanjit's stick to squeeze its way in.
The hosts doubled their lead five minutes later when Dharamvir’s powerful reverse-stick heave left Scottish custodian Alister McGregor in a daze. The visitors, by now, seemed to have given up on all their goal-scoring strategies as the entire team flocked back into defence ensuring no more goals were scored going into the breather.
The second half was a mere continuation of offensive play by coach Jose Brasa's men though Scotland created a few chances.
The latter would also rue not being awarded a few penalty corners in the second half but in all fairness, the Indians had a brilliant counter offensive working for them to keep the referees distracted.
Dhananjay Mahadik brought up India's third in the 51st minute through a penalty corner while Rajpal Singh crisscrossed his way inside the opposition half to flick the ball to Dharamvir who spanked it in to seal the match.
Though the Indians kept the pressure up, they could not further improve their goal-difference, which now stand at plus 2.
Brasa was visibly tense looking at the goal difference and said he would have wanted more goals to ease the pressure.
"Of course, there is a lot of pressure on us. We needed to score seven but managed only four. It makes our job clear for tomorrow. We just have to win," he said.
India will now hope to stage a repeat of their match against Pakistan during the World Cup where they won 4-1.
But their opponents won't be an easy side to defeat as they restricted Australia to a 1-0 win on Saturday, although this put the Kookaburras firmly in the semifinal berth from the pool.
Result: India 4 (Sarvanjit Singh 7', Dharamvir Singh 12', Dhananjay Mahadik 51', Dharamvir Singh 61') bt Scotland 0
Australia enter semifinals
World champions Australia had to sweat it out to overcome a spirited challenge from Pakistan beating them 1-0 to seal a place in the semi-finals of the men's hockey at the Commonwealth Games.
Unlike their other Pool A teams, the Kookaburras found Pakistan a tough nut to crack, courtesy an exemplary display from the Pakistan backline led by captain Zeeshan Ashraf.
Pakistan displayed a much-improved performance but failed to avenge their 1-2 World Cup loss to Australia because of poor finishing and brilliant goalkeeping from Nathan Burgers under the Australian goal. However, it was Australia who got the match-winner in the 33rd minute when Chris Ciriello converted their second penalty-corner with a fierce flick to the right of Shah.