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2018 Commonwealth Games: India men’s hockey team beats England, tops Pool B

The India men’s hockey team showed supreme composure to beat England in the dying minutes of their final Pool B match at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and take the top spot in the standings.

other sports Updated: Apr 11, 2018 19:33 IST
B Shrikant 
B Shrikant 
Hindustan Times, Gold Coast
Commonwealth Games 2018,Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018,Gold Coast 2018
The India men’s hockey team defeated England 4-3 in their final Pool B match at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on Wednesday. (Twitter )

Sjoerd Marijne, the coach of the Indian senior men’s team was quite happy on Wednesday and understandably so. His team overcame a strong opponent, England, in its last preliminary league match which helped India top the group and avoid playing reigning world champions Australia in the semifinals. (HIGHLIGHTS)

But more importantly, Marijne’s team improved on its performance and the players managed to twice comeback from a goal deficit and also scored twice in the final two minutes of the match – instead of conceding as they usually do against strong opponents.

Though England are ranked a rung lower than India, they are dangerous customers and India have always struggled against them in recent times.

On Wednesday, it looked like the old story would be repeated as England went ahead early in the second quarter when forward David Condon sent in a brilliant reverse shot to put England ahead. The Indians came back strongly and scored two goals.

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Gurjant intercepted a pass from Ian Sloan to put Mandeep through, who set up Manpreet and the skipper slotted the ball past England goalkeeper Gibson’s outstretched leg in the 33rd minute.

Mandeep had a chance in the third quarter but was thwarted. The match, however, exploded into action in the fourth quarter and for once, India had the last laugh as they scored the winner with just 39 seconds to go.

But it looked like England had done enough after they not only equalised the score at 2-2 but went ahead too.

Liam Ansell converted a penalty corner when he crunched a clever corner routine past Sreejesh to make it 2-2 and Sam Ward then scored off another penalty corner to make it 3-2. Just when it looked like England will hold on to the lead till the end, came the equaliser when Varun Kumar’s shot off a penalty corner was deflected past England substitute goalkeeper George Pinner.

India pushed for victory in the final minute and scored the winner when Mandeep Singh deflected a ball high into the net.

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“The most important aspect of today’s performance was that the boys played much, much better than the previous three matches. The individual efforts of most players were better than those in previous matches, so I am happy with that,” said coach Marijne.

The Dutch coach said the players were more disciplined and that the fact that they scored twice that too two minutes before the end of the match showed they are mentality strong and ready for the bigger challenges.

“We were in control most of the match, we had more circle penetrations so that was good thing for us,” said Marijne.

He said the Indians pulled themselves and won the match not because they wanted to avoid Australia in the semifinals. “We didn’t do this to only play New Zealand, but also to improve our performance,” he said, adding that they had some tough matches against the Black Sticks when they toured New Zealand a couple of months back and therefore can’t take them lightly.

But of course the Marijne is happy to have avoided Australia in the semis. “Australia is the No 1 side in the world while New Zealand is 8. So if you could choose, you would play No 8. We respect New Zealand and know that it is going to be a tough match. But this match is not about them, it is about us and we want to continue performing at our best,” the coach said.

First Published: Apr 11, 2018 17:44 IST