The Indian men’s hockey team twice blew a three-goal lead to lose 4-4 to hosts England in a Pool B match at the Commonwealth Games on Monday.
India took a commanding 4-1 lead in the match, thanks to Mandeep Singh’s brace (13′, 22′) and goals from Lalit Kumar Upadhyay (3′) and Harmanpreet Singh (46′). However, with a brace from Nicholas Bandurak (47′, 53′) and goals from Liam Ansell (42′) and Phillip Roper (50′), England managed to hold on and earn a point from the match played at the University of Birmingham Hockey and Squash centre here, maintaining their top position in Pool B table.
Graham Reid’s team gave up possession to the home team, who were also more aggressive, making 36 attacking circle penetrations to the Indians’ 21. Approximately 83% of their attacks resulted in a threat to the goal, whereas only 37% of Indian attacks resulted in shots at goal.
The Indians continued to struggle with their penalty corner routine, scoring only two of the 15 they were awarded. England, on the other hand, earned three penalty corners and failed on all three. Mandeep, Jugraj Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, and Abhishek were among the Indian attackers who missed scoring opportunities.
India got off to a fast start, with Hardik Singh charging from the left flank in the first minute to put England on the back foot. Lalit Kumar Upadhyay earned India’s first penalty corner minutes later, and he scored from the rebound to give his team an early lead.
After England earned a penalty corner of their own, the young Vivek Sagar Prasad came to India’s defence brilliantly. Hardik Singh launched a brilliant counter-attack with minutes remaining in the first quarter, sending the ball to Mandeep Singh inside the striking circle. Mandeep scored with a powerful tomahawk as India increased their lead to 2-0.
At the start of the second quarter, Vivek Sagar Prasad and Hardik Singh continued to press deep on the left flank. As he attempted to cross the ball to William Calnan inside the circle, Sam Ward put pressure on the Indian defence from the right flank. Krishan B Pathak, on the other hand, stepped forward to close the angle and made a smart save to deny the opposition.
Minutes later, Mandeep Singh scored for India with an outstanding move inside the circle, extending India’s lead to 3-0. England’s Christopher Griffiths took a shot on goal, but it only found the sidebar, and India led 3-0 at the half.
As the second started, England started holding on to ball possession as they searched for an opening inside the Indian circle. But India continued to defend in numbers, not allowing the opposition any opportunity to get a shot on target. Mandeep Singh continued to be the target man inside the circle as Gurjant Singh tried to find him to create an opportunity, only to be stopped midway by England’s defence. Liam Ansell managed to get the ball into the net before the end of the third quarter to reduce the margin for England.
Gaining confidence from their first goal scored late in the third quarter, England started pressing deep in the final 15 minutes to try and further reduce the deficit. But a costly error in defense from England earned India another penalty corner, and Harmanpreet Singh converted it with ease to increase India’s lead to 4-1.
After gaining confidence from their first goal late in the third quarter, England began pressing hard in the final 15 minutes to try to cut the deficit further. However, a costly defensive error by England earned India another penalty corner, which Harmanpreet Singh converted with ease to increase India’s lead to 4-1.
Nicholas Bandurak of England scored a minute later to make it 4-2. As England added another goal to their tally, Phillip Roper broke through the Indian defence and hit the ball past goalkeeper Krishan B Pathak. With minutes remaining, England drew level thanks to another counter-attack goal from Nicholas Bandurak. India had some nervous moments as England built pressure on them, but they managed to hold on until the final whistle, resulting in a 4-4 draw.
In the third quarter, the Indians went into a shell, believing they had done enough to win the game. They allowed England to attack freely, resulting in the loss of the advantage they had built.
It was a disappointing result for India because three points against England would have allowed them to top the pool and avoid facing Australia in the semifinals.
(Inputs from IANS)