PHOTOS: Sandeep scintillates in Olympic hockey qualifier
Ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh continued his goal-scoring spree, notching a hat-trick, to guide favourites India to a convincing 6-2 victory over France in an enthralling men's hockey Olympic qualification match, in New Delhi, on Tuesday.
It was India's third consecutive win.
India earned four penalty-corners in the match and Sandeep (9th minute, 30th, 37th) converted two of them while scoring his third from a penalty stroke.
By virtue of Tuesday's three goals, Sandeep moved to the top of the goal-scorers' tally with seven strikes.
Image: Sandeep Singh is congratulated by team-mates after scoring against France in the London 2012 Olympic Games men's hockey qualifying match in Delhi
Shivendra got it going for India
India started from where they left in the last game, against Italy, and sounded the board as early as in the fourth minute when Shivendra tapped home from the left after receiving a pass from Sarvanjit inside the circle.
The Indians doubled their lead five minutes later when Sandeep beautifully converted the home team's first penalty-corner.
Image: India's SV Sunil and Shivendra Singh celebrate a goal
Sandeep on target from the spot
It took India 30 minutes to make the scoreline 3-0, courtesy a penalty stroke conversion by Sandeep after Sunil was brought down inside the D by a French defender.
The French, however, pulled one back just at the stroke of half-time when Lucas Sevestre gleefully converted their second penalty-corner.
Image: India's SV Sunil fights for the ball with France's Forgues
The Indians started the second half with vengeance
The Indians started with vengeance after resumption of play and scored two more goals within the span of three minutes.
Two minutes into the second half, India scored its fourth goal when Sandeep completed his hat-trick, converting the hosts' second penalty-corner. Two minutes later an unmarked Sunil scored India's fifth from a counter attack.
France reduced the margin in the 57th minute from their third penalty-corner, which was accurately converted by Fabien Magner.
Image: India's Yuvraj Walmiki and Khadangbam fight for the ball with France's Verrier
India on course for the final
The Indians seemed in no mood to sit back on their comfortable lead and found the opposition net eight minutes from the hooter through Khandekar, who scored from top of the semi-circle with a powerful hit after being fed by Sarvanjit.
India are now well in course for a place in Sunday's final; two draws in their next two games will be enough to see them through.
With this win, India moved to the top of the men's pool with nine points from three matches while France dropped to the third spot on goal-difference even though they have six points, the same as second-placed Canada.
Image: India's SV Sunil and Tushar Khandekar celebrate a goal