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Men's Hockey: Late strike helps Canada hold India

August 12, 2016 23:24 IST

IMAGE: Scott Tupper of Canada (second right) celebrates after scoring a goal. Photograph: Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters.

A nervy India squandered a one-goal advantage as they allowed Canada to stage a fightback with a late strike and earn a 2-2 draw in their final men's hockey pool game of the Rio Olympics Games.

India struck through Akashdeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh in the 33rd and 41st minutes respectively, while Scott Tupper scored in the 33rd to help Canada draw level 1-1 and then in the 52nd minute, both times converting the penalty corners, to share honours. 

India, who have already qualified for the last eight, thus ended the group phase with two wins, two losses and a draw, accumulating seven points in the process. 

Going by form and world rankings, India were the overwhelming favourites against and as expected they started on a bright note. 

IMAGE: Matthew Guest of Canada (left) competes with Rupinder Pal Singh of India. Photograph: Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters.

The Indians created numerous scoring chances but failed to get past the stout Canadian defence led by its goalkeeper David Carter, who made three wonderful saves to deny the PR Sreejesh-led side. 

Canada, on the other hand, played deep on their own half and depended mainly on counter attacks. The Indians had lucky escape on at least two occasions
when the Canadians pressed hard from counters. India dominated the opening two quarters and created their first real scoring chance in the eighth minute but Nikkin Thimmaiah's reverse hit from close range was blocked by Carter. 

Five minutes later, Carter once again came to his side's rescue by coming off the line to deny Nikkin. India soon secured their first penalty corner but VR Raghunath's effort was blocked by a charging defender. Canada then had the best opportunity to take the lead from a counter attack when an unmarked Matthew Guest found himself in one-on-one situation with Sreejesh but his reverse hit just went wide of the goal, much to the relief of the Indians. 

India's best came in the 18th minute when Manpreet Singh and SK Uthappa combined well to enter the Canadian circle but once again Carter came in between India and a goal when he brilliantly saved the former's reverse shot. Minutes later, India were dealt a big blow when SV Sunil was stretchered off the pitch after he sustained an injury by crashing against the sign boards while pressing for an attack. 

Nikkin missed his third chance soon when he just pushed wide after being fed by Sardar Singh. The Indians had another opportunity to break the deadlock four minutes from half time but Rupinder Pal Singh's try from their second penalty corner was saved at the goal-line by Canada captain Scott Tupper as both the teams went into the breather goalless.

IMAGE: Akashdeep Singh of India (centre) celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal. Photograph: Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters.

India came out with more urgency after the change of ends and took the lead two minutes into the third quarter from their third short corner when Akashdeep scored off a rebound after Harmanpreet Singh's initial low flick was saved by Carter. 

But India's joy was shotlived as seconds later Tupper equalised for Canada, converting their first penalty corner. The equaliser didn't affect India as they pressed hard in search of goals and managed to restore their lead in the 41st minute through Ramandeep, who, lurking in front of the Candian goal, smartly defelcted in a defence-spliting diagonal pass from Raghunath. Canada soon earned their second penalty corner but Tupper's flick was saved by an alert Sreejesh. 

Leading 2-1, India were dominating the proceedings but they conceded an unnecessary penalty corner to the Candians in the last 10 minutes of the fourth quarter. In an effort to commit himself too much while defending, Nikkin committed an unnecessary foul outside the cirle which not only resulted in a suspension for him but also gave away another short corner to the Candians and Tupper was upto the task, scoring his second goal of the match. 

Desperate for three full points to seal a third-place fininsh in Pool B, India went all out attacking thereafter and even withdrew Sreejesh for an additional forward in the last three minutes, but they failed to break the resolute Candian defence. The draw against the 15th ranked Canadians comes as a disappointing result for world no. 5 India.