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India trounce Russia in Olympic qualifier opener
March 02, 2008 08:34 IST
Last Updated: March 02, 2008 09:42 IST
India opened their campaign in the World Hockey Olympic qualifying tournament with a rousing 8-0 victory over Russia [Images] at the Prince of Wales Country Club in Santiago, Chile, on Saturday night.
Prabhjot Singh, who is in tremendous form, did the star turn for the Indians, scoring three goals (19th, 29th, 65th minutes) while Dilip Tirkey (14th), Tushar Khandekar (36th), Sardara Singh (48th) and V Ramachandra Raghunath (54th) accounted for the others.
Great Britain, India's main rival for the solitary berth to the Olympics [Images] from this tournament, also had things their way, beating Mexico 11-0, while Austria defeated Chile 4-3 in the other match at the six-team tournament.
Scoring four goals in each half, the Indians left nothing to chance and were on the attack against the 50th-ranked team that appeared clueless.
The Russians left huge gaps in their defence and the Indian forwards needed no second invitation and came away with a flattering scoreline.
Using quick short passes to good effect, India moved fluently and ripped apart the Russian defence that increasingly grew tentative before yielding ground at the first hint of trouble.
Only late in the game when the Indians erred in relaxing their grip did the Russians squeeze in a couple of moves, the last of which led to two back-to-back penalty-corners on the stroke of full-time.
India, backed by a sizeable group of expatriate countrymen besides Ambassador to Chile Mrs Susmita Gongulee Thomas, did not have to wait long for their first goal.
After Raghunath failed with an early penalty-corner, Dilip Tirkey was on the mark with a well-angled direct hit to the boards.
Stepping up the pace, India went on to score at regular intervals.
Prabhjot found the net twice in succession, first following a goalmouth scramble and then putting home a Rajpal Singh pass.
Just before the break, Shivendra made it 4-0 after being put through by Prabodh Tirkey pass.
On change of ends, India sustained the pressure and were up 5-0 within the first minute when Khandekar found the net even before the Russian defence could settle down.
As the Indian attacks gathered momentum, Sardara, Raghunath and Prabhjot struck to complete the rout with the Russian defence all at sea.
In all, India received seven penalty-corners two of which they converted, while also conceding two.
Chief coach Joaquim Carvalho expressed satisfaction at the outcome and said the victory was a confidence booster for the players.
"It is always good to start a tournament on a victorious note, no matter what the opposition is. We were keen to pick up three points against Russia and am quite
happy that we were successful in meeting our target today," Carvalho said.
He admitted to feeling relieved at having the opening game done and dusted with considering that the Russian team was an unknown quantity.
"Yes, it is a relief especially since we had not seen the Russian team in action. During my days, they were always a tough team and I was a bit anxious at the start of the game. However, after the first 10 minutes, we could assess our opponents and in the end, I was happy with the scoreline too. Eight goals in the first match is a perfect start," he said.