India’s men’s hockey team began its title defence at the Asian Games in style as they fired 17 goals past Indonesia in their first Pool A match to register their biggest win in the continental competition here on Monday.
Youngsters Dilpreet Singh, Simranjeet Singhand Mandeep Singh scored a hat-trick each, while the other goals came from Rupinder Pal Singh, Akashdeep Singh, SV Sunil, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Harmanpreet Singh, Lalit Upadhyay and Amit Rohidas, even as Indonesia couldn’t come up with a goal.
With the Indian forwards showcasing top form, puncturing Indonesian defence hooter-to-hooter, the match eventually turned out to be one-sided as PR Sreejesh-led squad demonstrated different variations to score goals.
The team recorded 43 per cent conversion rate as they scored 10 goals off the 28 field attempts while they converted 6 of the 11 penalty corners earned. One goal came off a penalty stroke.
“This was exactly the kind of start we were looking for. We were not chasing any record of winning by maximum goals but a 17-0 margin in the first match instills confidence especially for the youngsters. The idea was to use different scoring combinations which we had worked on during the National Camp and I am happy with the way the team executed,” stated chief coach Harendra Singh after the win.
A lethal charge in their attack right from the start saw India win two penalty corners in the first three minutes of the match. India’s first goal came within 46 seconds of the start with ace drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh, making a comeback into the team after the Commonwealth Games in April, scored off a penalty corner. He converted a penalty stroke in the third minute after a deliberate foul by Indonesian defender to obstruct Harmanpreet Singh’s drag-flick.
India’s third goal came off a calm and composed Dilpreet who picked up a rebound after Harmanpreet’s drag-flick was padded away by the Indonesian goalkeeper.
One of the finest goals of the match came through a splendid combination work between experienced players Sardar Singh and S.V. Sunil in the 25th minute. A swift pass after fiercely charging into the top of the striking circle by ball carrier Sunil, saw Sardar infuse magic with his dribble past Indonesian defenders to pass it back to Sunil who simply deflected it into the goal.
The calmness and composure shown by young guns Simranjeet Singh, Mandeep Singh (both 2016 Junior World Cup winners) and Dilpreet Singh was heartening as they led the attack with brilliance.
Though in a few instances Indonesian defence looked to resist, it was barely enough to stop the Indians from scoring. As Vivek Sagar Prasad, Akashdeep Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Lalit Upadhyay and Amit Rohidas added to the scoreline, India’s defence was rarely tested with goalkeeper Krishan Pathak holding fort in India’s goalpost.
The 17-0 win is India’s best record at the Asian Games with their previous best being 12-0 win against Bangladesh in 1982.