What do you call a game where the first goal is scored in the first minute and the last at the stroke of the final hooter, and 18 in between?
Farce? Well, that was what happened when India took to the field against Sri Lanka in their second match of the BSNL Asia Cup here on Saturday. India were favourites to pump in quite a few against the minnows, but no one expected them to do it so brutally.
Consider this: India earned a penalty-corner in the first minute and Dilip Tirkey slammed the ball home. Thereafter, it was a goal-fest, India going 4-0 up in the first 10 minutes. By the time the players dispersed for the break, India were up by half a score.
After a point, it became quite an effort to keep track of the score. So much so that there were no celebrations after a goal, no high-fives and no joyous shouts --- just a clinical monotony that made it difficult to figure out who amongst the entire lot was the scorer.
In the meantime, the hosts had already created one record for this edition of the tournament — the first hat-trick, by S.V. Sunil. Interestingly, this is Sunil’s first international event. And, those players who appear clueless in the face of a stronger opponent, seemed to pick this moment to redeem themselves.
With almost 4,000 people at their vociferous best and an Indian team intent on taking maximum advantage to better their goal average, Sri Lanka had no hope in hell. The second half produced another 10 goals, this time Prabhjot Singh scoring a hat-trick and taking his tally to five in the match. There were other equally impressive records set up by the time the final hooter marked the end of Sri Lanka’s massacre (see box) but it might suffice to say that, despite the weak opposition, it was quite an achievement for India to register their highest-ever victory margin post-independence.
For the record, Tushar Khandker scored three goals and set up a couple more, Raghunath scored another three, Shivendra Singh and Ignace Tirkey scored a brace each and Rajpal Singh provided the finishing touch by scoring the last goal. But, even amidst this goal glut, it was the 15th goal — by Ignace Tirkey — that stood apart for its sheer brilliance and beauty of stick-work, even as the experienced midfielder weaved past half-a-dozen Lankan players to slam the ball in with a reverse-hit past a rooted goalkeeper, reviving memories of the previous edition (he scored a dream goal against Pakistan in the final).
Earlier, in the first upset of the tournament, Japan shocked Asian Games bronze-medallists Pakistan 3-1. The Japanese were on the attack from the beginning, putting Pakistan under pressure, and the latter ended up with defensive lapses that proved costly. Ono Tomonori scored a brace for the winners while their penalty corner expert Yamabori Takahiko scored once. For Pakistan, Shakeel Abbasi scored the consolation goal.