Rio de Janeiro: India’s men’s hockey team was held 2-2 by lower-ranked Canada in its final group phase game that failed to guarantee it a third place in the Pool B of the Olympic Games here on Friday.
Already assured of a place in the quarter-finals, world No.5 India played an attacking game but had to wait for 33 minutes to break the deadlock. Akashdeep Singh made it 1-0 for India after scoring on a penalty corner rebound. But world No.15 Canada took few second to make it 1-1 with a successful penalty corner conversion from captain Scott Tupper. Ramandeep Singh deflected a ball in near the right post from a long slap from V.R. Raghunath to make it 2-1 for India in the 41st minute.
Tupper brought Canada on level with a successful penalty corner conversion in the 52nd minute. Latter, India got plenty of opportunities but failed to scored the winner. With this draw, India dropped to the fourth spot with seven points, while Canada ended their campaign with a point and are now out of the Games. The Netherlands and two-time defending champions Germany occupy the first two positions with 10 points each but the latter are ahead on goal difference. India will now face a tough challenge against a strong Belgium team in the quarter-finals on Sunday. Belgium, who topped Pool A, were thrashed 1-3 by New Zealand later on Friday.
Simon Child (31st minute), Nick Wilson (37th), Hugo Inglis (52nd) scored for New Zealand , while on the other hand Florent Van Aubel (58th) was the only goal scorer for Belgium. Despite the loss Belgium still topped Pool A, since Australia crushed hosts Brazil 9-0. Glenn Turner scored a hat-trick (20th, 24th, 27th), Jamie Dwyer (7th, 9th) and Blake Govers (45th, 59th) scored two goals each while Matt Gohdes (11th), Matthew Dawson (35th) were the others scorers for Australia. India would have secured the third spot with a win against Canada but it could nOt happen despite dominating the game from the start. They made several circle incursions but to no avail. Their first prospective attack came in the 10th minute when Nikkin Thimmaiah dodged past three defenders but a backhand was padded away by Canadian custodian David Carter.
One of the attacks earned them a penalty corner but V.R. Raghunath’s flick was blocked by Carter in the 13th minute. In the turnover, Canada launched a fierce counter-attack but Matthhew Guest received a long ball to race into the Indian circle but Kothajit pressurised him to hit the shot wide, much to the relief of the Indian camp. Nikkin again failed to beat Carter from a close angle as he just drove straight at the Canadian goalkeeper after an attack built from the right flank. India continued to attack in the second quarter and midfielder Manpreet Singh found himself in a very strong position.
But he too made the mistake of hitting straight at Carter. On the rebound, Manpreet again employed a reverse-hand strike from the left but Carter again jumped to his right to keep Canada at level. Later, Sardar Singh earned India a penalty corner by playing a ball to the hands of a defender. But Canadian Scott Tupper was all alert to discard the powerful flick from Rupinder Pal Singh. These couple of quarters were frustrating for India, who almost camped inside the Canadian half for the better part of the 30 minutes.
However, India broke the deadlock on 33 minutes when Sardar earned a penalty corner by forcing a defender to make mistakes. Harmanpreet Singh’s lethargic flick was saved by goalkeeper Carter but the rebound reached Akashdeep, who slammed the ball in with a backhand to make it 1-0. Canada equalised within seconds of India’s goal as Tupper’s flick went through the legs of Indian goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh. However, India regained the lead in the 41st minute when Ramandeep deflected from close angle after Raghunath slapped a ball through the middle at the Canadian post from 30 metres out.
In the final quarter, Canada earned two penalty corners in as many minutes and found their equaliser when Tupper’s flick beat a diving Sreejesh on the right low corner in the 52nd minute.
Later, India did their best to find the winner but Canada defended desperately to walk out with a deserving 2-2 draw. –IANS
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