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India finish third in Champions Challenge
July 01, 2007 22:03 IST
India survived a scare to pip a resurgent England [Images] 4-3 and bag the bronze medal in the Champions Challenge hockey tournament for men in Boom, Belgium, on Sunday.
The weakness of faltering at the death again haunted India, who nearly blew away a 4-0 lead before clinching their back-to-back bronze.
Tushar Khandekar (3rd, 6th minutes), Sandeep Singh (14th) and Roshan Minz (22nd) did the early damage before easing off. England, known for fighting from the trenches, hit back through Rob Moore (34th), James Tindall (54th) and Simon Mantell (63rd).
Incidentally, India had beaten England by the same scoreline when the teams had met in the league stage.
England, who applied pressure to rattle the Indians towards the end, paid dearly for the horrific lapses in deep defence in the first half.
With the sun out in all its glory for the first time in the competition, the Indians, at the start, showcased their skills and teamwork that was missing in the round robin stage. But they flattered to deceive in the second session by conceding three goals.
Scoring four goals by the 22nd minute, India looked to have effectively sealed the game in their favour against a side that simply could not pick itself up from the bullets fired at it.
It was only when the Indians, who had won the league encounter 4-3, relaxed a bit that England got the chance to make a few moves.
The manner in which the Indians began the game, England looked destined for a rout. Fluency and rhythm marked the Asian outfit's moves that flowed from both the flanks, stretching the English defence thin.
Under pressure from the ceaseless onslaughts, England defenders blundered repeatedly, giving deflections inside the circle and were severely punished for the lapses.
Gurbaaz Singh twice breached the English defence with hard hits and Khandekar was on hand to put home the deflections off defenders' sticks to give India a 2-0 lead by the sixth minute.
Pressing on, India scored yet again. This time Sandeep Singh snatched the ball from a slow moving defender to score in the 14th minute.
With England reeling from these body blows, Minz joined the party and slammed the fourth in the 22nd minute from a goalmouth scramble.
The change of ends saw England playing with more purpose and determination. Attacking in waves, they applied pressure on the Indian defence, which just about managed to counter the English surge.