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India down England for first win
June 25, 2007 04:25 IST
India revived their hopes with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over England [Images] for their first success in two matches in the Champions Challenge men's hockey tournament in Boom, Belgium, on Sunday.
The Indians saw off a determined bid by England, who equalised twice before Prabhjot Singh scored the match-winner in the 53rd minute.
The Indians led twice on goals by Rajpal Singh (28th minute) and Dilip Tirkey (41st), only to see England catch up with strikes from Richard Mantell (33rd minute) and Jonty Clarke (48th).
Poor weather seems to follow India's matches, but after having lost 2-0 to New Zealand on Saturday in their opening fixture, it was a good comeback in a game they had to win to remain in contention for a berth in the final.
Though India's overall performance did not show any marked improvement, they did well enough to hold off England, especially in the last quarter when they were under tremendous pressure.
England thus crashed to their second defeat following the 4-3 loss to Argentina on Saturday.
Wretched weather marred the first-half's proceedings during which the Indians clearly enjoyed the upper hand, but conceded an equaliser two minutes from half-time to allow England back in the game.
As a drizzle intensified into a steady rain, neither team was able to settle down, though the Indians appeared a tad sharper than England.
Facing a must-win situation, following their 2-0 defeat to New Zealand India were on the attack from the start and forced two penalty=corners by the sixth minute, but failed to convert them.
Off the first, Sandeep Singh's attempt struck the runner on the foot leading to another penalty-corner that was wasted due to indecision at the top of the circle.
Nevertheless, India continued to press hard and made quite a few entries into the England circle before breaking down on wrong passing and positional play. Also, an alert English defence did well to anticipate most of the Indian moves with impressive covering and marking.
Past the 15th minute, India lost Sandeep Singh, who suffered a blow on the ankle while defending a penalty corner.
The tactics of deploying three full-backs paid off as Sandeep's exit did not seriously affect the deep defence, where Dilip Tirkey was in control.
Persistence finally paid off for India in the 28th when Rajpal Singh cracked home a deflection off Roshan Minz's stick following Tirkey's free-hit.
The lead was neutralised five minutes later with England receiving a penalty-corner when right-half Gurbaaz Singh was penalised for deliberately playing the ball after a free-hit was awarded to England inside the 25-yard line. England forced two quick penalty-corners, converting the second through Mantell, who scrambled home a rebound.
Crossing over with the game evenly poised, India began strongly and forced their third penalty- corner. With Sandeep Singh still on the bench, it was left to Dilip Tirkey to take charge and he made no mistake with a withering carpet shot to boards to put India 2-1 ahead.
England equalised from a questionable penalty-corner award with Clarke grabbing a loose ball and slotting to the second angle.
India regained the lead in the 53rd minute as Prabhjot flicked home a deflection to make amends for his lapse moments earlier when he fumbled with only the goalkeeper to beat.
England mounted waves of attack on the Indian goal, finding themselves in the same position as against Argentina when they trailed 1-4 and 3-4 only to meet similar fate. With the time ticking away, India resorted to aerial and long clearances to keep England at bay.
The long hooter to signal end of play came as a huge relief for the Indian team as well as the sizeable contingent of supporters from neighbouring European countries.
The tournament takes a day's break on Monday. India next play Belgium on Tuesday at 2230 IST.