India goes down fighting to Great Britain
Great Britain edged past India 3-2 in a keenly contested tussle to reach at the top of the Points Table, Austria struggled to prevail over Mexico while Russia shocked host Chile to earn their first points of the competition at the World Hockey Olympic Qualifier in Santiago on Thursday.
The day started with the much anticipated game between largely favourites Great Britain and India to fight for the lone ticket to Beijing on Sunday afternoon. Apart from the immediate purpose of Olympic qualification, India vs. Great Britain is always a classic match in the hockey world, with historical results heavily in favour of the Asian team that claimed 24 wins against only 9 for the British team.
India, forcing a penalty corner in the 3rd minute of play. Alistair Mcgregor in the British goal was completely wrong-footed by V.R. Raghunath’s powerful flick on the left post and India opened the scoring (1-0) much to the delight of the Indian fans.
Great Britain settled down and played for a while with an extra player when India's Vikram Kanth was shown a yellow card. They threatened the Indian defense but faltered in front of the rival goal, but finally succeeded to restore parity on a penalty-corner by Richard Mantell.
The game then stayed in for a midfield action for a while, with the traditional opposition of a more structured build-up from Great Britain and fast penetrating runs from India.
India was again reduced to ten players after Shivendra Singh got a yellow booking for a reckless tackle. Great Britain had more control towards the end of first half and came close on few occasions to score on a fast combination of passes in the Indian circle, however, the best opportunity was squandered by Indian striker Prabhjot SINGH who inherited a deep ball alone in front of the British goalkeeper but shot it just wide.
After a tied score at half-time (1-1), the second half started with India immediately adopted attacking mode and forced a series of penalty-corners that Great Britain struggled to survive unscathed.
Great Britain had a series of unsuccessful penalty-corners of their own, but finally managed to take the lead by Jonty Clarke, not missing the chance to score on the occasion of his 100th Cap when receiving the ball in front of the empty goal after a decisive penetrating run on the right by Ali Wilson and Richard Alexander.
India tried to create chances by hitting long ball into the circle, but the British team maintained their strict defensive structure to thwart the somewhat desperate Indian attempts. India finally tied the game in the 64th minute on a penalty corner by V.R. Raghunath, his second goal of the game that pushed him to the top of the Goal Scorers list with a total of 8.
Great Britain regained the decisive lead with a few minutes left in the game by Rob Moore on another fast combination of passes in the circle, securing in the process the bragging rights in the rivalry between the two teams, although players and coaches on both sides were quick to acknowledge that the real test will be the Final on Sunday.
Indian player Ignace TIRKEY was recognized for his 200th International Caps, British player Jonty CLARKE for his 100th, and Danish umpire Henrik EHLERS for his 150th International assignment before the start of match.
IND: GBR 2:3 (Half-Time 1:1) AUT: MEX 3:1 (Half-Time 1:1) RUS: CHI 2:1 (Half-Time 0:0)
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