Sports

HWL: Battling India go down to England


By Sidney Kiran

Bhubaneswar, Dec 3: India staged a brilliant fight back but sloppy defending, their Achilles heel, came back to haunt them badly as they crashed to a 2-3 defeat against a well-oiled England in their second World League Finals pool encounter here on Saturday.

After England had stroked to 2-0 lead in the third quarter and appeared on course for a deserved win, India sent the Kalinga Stadium into raptures with two goals in a space of three minutes to breathe life into the contest. With the momentum completely with the them, India, however, made a third defensive blunder and paid the price as England emerged victors.

Unlike the blistering start they made against Australia in their opening encounter on Friday, the Indians found the going tough against an England side who looked like they had done all their homework. Aware that this new Indian side loves to play either one-touch hockey or hit on the counter with their lightning quick midfielders and strikers, England employed the half-court press from the very start.

They packed the midfield with five-six players and kept pushing India deep into their own half. They didn't allow space for the Indians to operate or to make their dashing runs, often cutting off the ball by their 23-yard line. Even on occasions when India managed to make a run or two, they were easily marked out by the ever alert English defence. With the choke applied tight on them, the Indians struggled to get any shot on goal for the entirety of the opening quarter.

England, extremely methodical on the day, loved to play the waiting game. They were happy annoying India with their water-tight defence and hoped to strike the moment their opponents blinked out of frustration. The moment almost came towards the end of the opening quarter when David Goodfield got a loose ball inside the circle but shot wide with just the keeper to beat.

India, who themselves defended with discipline in the odd forays England made into their citadel, started to feel the heat as their rivals slowly pressed the accelerator with half-time nearing. Focussed until then, India dozed off when England made a good run into their circle and Goodfield whipped in a ball which deflected off Suraj Karkere's pads into the goal. England then marched to a 2-0 lead when defender Harmanpreet Singh fumbled a long ball and a lurking Sam Ward made no mistake with the gift.

India, however, responded brilliantly from the two blows. They started to pass the ball wider, tried creating spaces and their forays appeared to carry more potency as England slackened a bit. Akashdeep Singh struck off a rebound in the 47th minute and three minutes later Rupinder Pal Singh thundered in a penalty corner to push the contest onto a knife-edge.

Stung by the blitz, England suddenly became scrappy while India went in search of the winner. England, however, regained their composure in the nick of time and switched back to their half court press. They then made India pay with a fine move with three minutes left. David Condon, with his back to the goal, found out Ward and the Englishman turned around and hammered it home.

Results: Pool A: Belgium: 3 (Loick Luypaert 9th, Amaury Keusters 51st, Tom Boon 56th) bt Argentina: 2 (Maico Casella 52nd, Gonzalo Peillat 57th); Spain: 3 (Pau Quemada 15th, Enrique Gonzalez 35th, Diego Arana 39th) bt Netherlands: 2 (Lars Balk 37th, Mirco Pruijser 55th).

Pool B: Germany: 2 (Marco Miltkau 7th, Martin Haner 58th) drew with Australia: 2 (Blake Govers 39th, Aaron Kleinschmidt 49th); England: 3 (David Goodfield 25th, Sam Ward 43rd, 57th) bt India: 2 (Akashdeep Singh 47th, Rupinder Pal Singh 50th).

Today's fixture (Live on Star Sports 1): Pool A: Belgium vs Spain (5:30 pm).

Pool B: Netherlands vs Argentina (7:30 pm)

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