India’s hockey team conceded a goal barely three seconds from the hooter to lose 1-2 to Germany in its second match of the pool phase in the Olympic Games in RIo de Janeiro on Monday.
Christopher Ruhr deflected the ball from close range in the dying moments as Germany earned a crucial win in a Pool B match that India rightfully deserved a point. It was a familiar scene where India failed to remain in control in the final moments.
Niklas Wellen scored in the 18th minute to give the two-time defending champions the lead before Rupinder Pal Singh (23rd) brought India level with his third goal in two matches.
It was the fourth loss for India against Germany in 11 Olympic matches. Overall, it was the 51st loss for eight-time Olympic champions India against the European side in 94 matches.
Germany, coming into the match with a 6-2 demolition of Canada in their opener, controlled the play in the first quarter, playing with patience. India, coming in to the match with a 3-2 win over Ireland, took time to get into groove.
India tested Germany defence for the first time in the 12th minute when Akashdeep stole the ball from midfield before passing it to Nikkin Thimmaiah, who attempted a reverse-hand strike from a sharp angle but German goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi was alert.
Later, Rupinder showed his steely defensive skills as he fend off Christopher Ruhr, who had thrusted into the circle receiving a long pass from the centre.
Germany stepped up in the second quarter and found the lead early. Linus Butt fed a ball from the left to Wellen, who was looming in front of the goal. Wellen, with his back to the post, turned perfectly to receive the ball and beat defender Surender Kumar to slam the ball past goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh in the 18th minute.
However, India responded very strongly and S.V. Sunil’s cross found the body of Martin Haner, resulting in a penalty corner. Rupinder flicked home by firing to the left low, beating Jacobi on the right to bring India to level terms.
India enjoyed a very good time afterwards till the end of the second quarter. However, the Roelant Oltmans-coached side rued the couple of missed chances.
V.R. Raghunath’s brilliant through ball was failed to meet by Nikkin before German goalkeeper Jacobi decided to put it away. The ball was closed down by Nikkin again but the Indian was again foiled by Jacobi.
Later, Nikkin failed to receive a pass in front of the goal as the ball kissed his leg in a big relief to the European side as the contest ended 1-1 till the half-time.
After the half-time, India dictated the terms with Danish Mujtaba and Akashdeep Singh proving threatening from the left. They created a lot of chances but their finishing was not up to mark.
Raghunath’s diagonal ball was defended poorly, earning India a penalty corner. This time, Rupinder’s flick towards he right top corner was palmed away by Jacobi, who jumped into action again to halt a hit off the rebound in the 38th minute.
Germany fought back in the first couple of minutes in the final quarter, after Timur Oruz’s free-hit was defended messily. It resulted in a penalty corner but Moritz Furste’s flick was dismissed by defender Surender.
India turned on the heat when Sunil was brought down just away from the circle, resulting in a penalty corner. Rupinder again stepped up, only to be denied by the German wall.
Germany mounted several attacks as India were restricted in their own half. India had almost kept the Germans at bay.
But the goal eventually came as a free-hit from the halfway line entered the Indian circle and was popped up to the left after touching goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh. Ruhr, the two-time World Young Player of the Year, deflected the ball in to trigger wild celebrations in the German camp.