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Hockey Junior World Cup: India beat Spain to book semifinal berth

India marched into the semi-finals of the Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup, notching up a thrilling 2-1 win against Spain.

other sports Updated: Dec 15, 2016 21:18 IST
Sharad Deep
Hockey Junior World Cup

India marched into the semi-finals of the Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup, notching up a thrilling 2-1 win against Spain, at the jam-packed Major Dhyan Chand Stadium in Lucknow on Thursday. Now, India play against Australia in the semi-final on Friday.

Down by a goal at the end of the opening half, Harjeet Singh and Co staged a superb comeback, converting two penalty corners in the crucial moments to script a brilliant victory. The tie witnessed all the three goals converted through penalty corners.

Drag-flicker Marc Serrahima pushed Spain into lead in the 22nd minute, converting team’s first penalty corner, striking the ball in the right of custodian Vikas Dahiya (1-0). The goal, however, left the India shell shocked and even they found it hard to make any concentrated attacks on the rivals then.

Things changed dramatically when Simranjeet Singh converted team’s fifth penalty corner into goal (1-all) in the 55th minute, whereas drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh shot the eight penalty corner home to put the side into winning mode in the 6th minute.

With this win, India took their head-to-head record to 3-4 in seven encounters so far in the Junior World Cup. It also helped the side take revenge of their defeated against Spain in the bronze-medal tie at Rotterdam at the Netherlands. Chanting of slogans like ‘Jitega bhai jitega, India jitega’ kept the boys inspiring for the levellor.

The Indian team looked off-colour in the first half as over a dozen times front line men couldn’t trap the ball properly, allowing Spanish men getting hold of the balls. Barring a few chances, Indians always found the ball slipping out of their sticks.

Spain on the other hand went for the man-to-man marking, making situation tough for Indian forwards, who chose to play a waiting game on Thursday, mostly rotating the ball from one flank to another. On the contrary, Spanish captain Enrique Gonzalez’s stick work was a treat to watch as he alone kept mesmerizing the Indian defence.

Missing of both the penalty corners in the first half let the fans disappointed. Captain Harjeet Singh couldn’t even stop the push inside the circle on the first chance in the fourth minute, whereas the second one in the seventh minute was able deflected by Spain custodian Albert Perez, diving to his right. This remained the trend even after a change in the ends as India missed two more penalty corners.

Aimless passing kept haunting India even after a change in the ends. Before India could restore parity through Simranjeet Singh, they had an open net chance to level the score in the 56th minute but Nilakanta Sharma couldn’t guide the ball home on a perfect lob inside the circle from Harmanpreet Singh.