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India grab final berth

india Updated: Feb 07, 2009 23:42 IST
Saurabh Duggal
Saurabh Duggal
Hindustan Times
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India were already assured of a place in the final even before the start of their last league match of the Punjab Gold Cup hockey. Holland's comprehensive 7-1 win over Olympic champions Germany in the first match of the day ended all possibilities for the Germans to make it to the final. The hosts could now afford to lose to New Zealand.

But the local boys, wanting to end this phase on a positive note, did not look complacent. Local hero, Rajpal Singh, starred in what was a decent show by the Indians that saw them beat New Zealand 3-2. Rajpal scored a brace and bagged the man of the match award.

India's coach-in-charge Harendra Singh used this opportunity to test the bench strength. "I wanted to give every player a chance," said Harendra. Though India began on a jittery note, Rajpal gave them an early lead.

Prabodh Tirkey initiated the move from mid-field in the sixth minute and pushed the ball towards the opponent's goalmouth where Rajpal was ready to tap it in.

The Kiwis got three penalty corners in the first half but India took the 1-0 lead into the lemon break.

New Zealand came back in the match through Nicholas Wilson who equalised in the 40th minute. But Saturday was to be Rajpal's day. He scored his second goal in the 55th minute to put India ahead again.

Sunil, helped by Prabodh and Ignace in the midfield, went on a counter attack and passed the ball to Rajpal who made no mistake while applying the finishing touch.

But the Kiwis weren't to be bogged down. They equalised again in the 62nd minute when Richard Petherick converted a penalty corner.

It seemed the game would in a draw but Ignace sounded the board in the 67th minute to seal it in India's favour.

Results:

Netherlands bt Germany 7-1 India bt New Zealand 3-2