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Hockey team fails to make semis
March 22, 2006 10:05 IST
Last Updated: March 22, 2006 12:11 IST
A dispirited India scored a goal in each half to down South Africa 2-0, but could not make it to the semi-finals in the men's hockey competition as Malaysia qualified with a better goal difference despite losing to Pakistan 5-6, at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne on Wednesday.
Pakistan topped Pool 'B' with 10 points while Malaysia and India finished with seven points each.
At the end of the league stage, Malaysia had 16 goals for and eight against, while India had 14 for and six against, taking the goal difference of both the teams to eight.
But Malaysia qualified because they scored more goals than India.
It was very clear from the outset that Pakistan and Malaysia were playing with a tacit understanding to keep India out, and the two teams succeeded in their efforts. India were left to rue the chances they missed in earlier matches.
They have no one else but themselves to blame for their predicament. Indians were expecting 'mercy' from Pakistan that never came. In international competition, teams have to win on their own strength rather than depend on other off-field permutations.
It is a moot point whether India would have made it to the semis had they beaten South Africa by a bigger margin, because the way Pakistan and Malaysia played it was clear that India stood no chance of qualifying.
Back to the match against South Africa, Sandeep Singh (fifth minute) and Tushar Khandekar (51st) scored for India.
It was yet another depressing display by the Indians, who, despite needing a big victory, wasted sitters even in this crucial tie.
The Indians started with flourish, forcing their only penalty-corner of the match in the fifth minute and Sandeep Singh, with a powerful drag flick to the right, sent the ball home (1-0).
But they flattered to deceive as they produced listless hockey for the remaining period of the half. The forwards lacked ideas and the midfielders were not cohesive enough, thus putting pressure on the defence. It was goalkeeper Bharat Chettri who came to the rescue with four outstanding saves.
Deepak Thakur, Tejbir Singh and Tushar Khandekar did lot of meaningless running around and Didar and Sardar Singh -- the two other forwards -- were no better. The Africans crowded their defence and the Indians found it hard to get past them. The forwards soon realised the futility of their attacks and went for penalty-corners but that effort also failed.
The South Africans, despite being defensive, made few tearaway counter attacks that rattled the Indians but Chettri stood like a rock.India had a good chance to increase the lead in the 10th minute when Arjun Halappa created an opening from the right for Deepak Thakur, who had only the goalkeeper to beat but fumbled with the ball; his feeble push was cleared by custodian Christopher Hibbert.
Against the run of play, the South Africans launched a counter move that resulted in a penalty-corner, but Kenneth Forbes's powerful flick was superbly saved by Chettri.
The Indians then resumed their offensive, and in the 18th minute Khandekar initiated a move on the left flank but Tejbir undid all the good work in the rival circle. Three minutes later Tejbir moved up but lost the ball after taking it near the circle.
Four minutes before the breather, the South Africans launched a furious counter attack from the right and Jody Paul darted past couple of defenders but his powerful shot from top of the circle was brilliantly saved by Chettri.
India's second goal was the result of a good moe by Tejbir. After beating a couple of players he relayed the ball to Khandekar, who made no mistake (2-0).
Two minutes later, India missed a sitter. Didar created an opening for Deepak in the rival circle, but the striker failed to intercept the ball. It was the easiest possible chance a team could get.
Coach Rajinder Singh was unhappy with the team's showing, but got upset after Pakistan-Malaysia match.
''What can I say? You have all watched the match (Pakistan-Malaysia),'' he said.