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India down Kiwis, stay in running
March 08, 2004 20:13 IST
Last Updated: March 08, 2004 21:39 IST
India went through an agonizing time before getting the better of New Zealand 2-0 in a Pool B match in the men's Olympic hockey qualifying tournament in Madrid on Monday.
After Arjun Halappa put the eight-time Olympic champions ahead in the second minute from a field goal, it was New Zealand all the way. But they were kept at bay by goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan, who brought off at least three brilliant saves.
Three minutes from the end Deepak Thakur consolidated India's position, scoring from a breakaway counter attack by Prabhjot Singh to put the issue beyond doubt.
Following the victory India swelled their points tally to seven from four matches, the same as New Zealand, but occupy the second spot behind Pakistan (9 points) in Pool B because of better goal difference than the Kiwis.
India play Canada in their final league match on Tuesday and a victory should give them a berth in the semi-finals as also ensure a place at the Athens Olympics.
New Zealand meet Pakistan in the last match of Tuesday's schedule.
India were off to a dream start. The Kiwi defenders left Halappa unchecked, and he received a pass from Bimal Lakra, following a long clearance by Dilip Tirkey from the deep, and dispatched home in a jiffy.
Deepak Thakur could have increased the lead in the ninth minute but he sent the ball over the crossbar after goalkeeper Paul Woolford padded successive attempts from him.
But, from then on, it was the Kiwis who did most of the attacking. They should have drawn level in the 12th minute but Kanwalpreet Singh brought off a goalline save off Phillip Burrows's reverse hit after goalkeeper Chauhan failed to cut off a cross from the right.
The Indian goal survived a torrid time and the only breathing space they got was when they forced their first and only penalty-corner of the match in the dying seconds of the first half. Dilip Tirkey's stiff hit was easily saved by Woolford.
In the second session, it was Chauhan who denied New Zealand success. The Kiwis forced five penalty-corner but just could not get the ball past Chauhan.
With five minutes to go, the Indians did well to transfer the pressure to the Kiwi half and bore fruit as Prabhjot made a quick run down the left and squared the ball to Gagan Ajit Singh, whose deflection traveled to Thakur. With goalkeeper Woolford caught on the wrong foot, Thakur had all the time in the word to place the ball between the posts.
Belgium, Canada draw
Belgium and Canada fought out a grim 2-2 draw in a Pool B encounter in the men's Olympic hockey qualifying tournament in Madrid on Monday.
This was the third draw from four matches for Belgium which kept themselves in contention for at least a fourth place finish in the pool and in the running for the 5 to 8 classification round.
Canada on the other hand picked their first point of the tournament after suffering three defeats and are out of contention for a berth in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
The Canadians squandered a 2-1 lead after coming back from 0-1 down in a match that provided little aesthetics and plenty of body play.
Jean-Philippe Brule (24th minute) and Mike Dewever (49th) scored for Belgium while the Canadians replied through Sean Campbell (30th) and skipper Rob Short (32nd) from a penalty stroke.