India stun world champions Germany 3-2 in first match after World Cup debacle | Hockey News

NEW DELHI: The Indian hockey team put the World Cup debacle behind them by thrashing world champions Germany 3-2 in the opener of the FIH Pro League in Rourkela on Friday.
Striker Sukhjeet Singh scored a brace as he netted the field goals in the 31st and 42nd minutes to be voted player of the match. Sukhjeet, 26, survived the ax after India’s exit in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in January.
His captain Harman Preet Singhco-top scorer in the tournament so far, had given the home side the lead in the 30th minute with a conversion from a penalty corner.
Harmanpreet had also failed in the World Cup held here and in Bhubaneswar as he struggled to find the target of his drag shot in the big showpiece matches.
India led 3-0 in the 42nd minute ahead of Paul-Philipp Kaufmann and Michael Struthoff scored for Germany in the 44th and 57th minutes respectively.
The Germans, who came with several players from their World Cup-winning squad, struggled to score from the penalty corners. They got six CPs against India’s four.
The visitors got off to a good start with five consecutive CPs in the 10th minute, but India kept their nerves to defend them all.
Striker Abhishek’s efforts in the circle late in the second quarter finally gave the momentum India were looking for.
Until then, errant attempts by forwards Gurjant Singh and Dilpreet Singh – both brought into the squad after missing out on the World Cup – in the opening minutes of the match were repelled by German goalkeeper Alexander Stadler.
Abhishek’s quick thinking in his tackle to rush inside the strike circle forced a German offense which earned the home side their first CP of the game just before half-time.
Harmanpreet, who was retained as captain despite the sacking of head coach Graham Reid after the World Cup, was first class in his attempt, collecting a good injection from Hardik Singh to shove it fiercely into the right corner of the post, giving India the 1-0 lead if needed.
The lead was a shot in the arm for India’s offense as they built on it in the third quarter. A brilliant pass from Jarmanpreet Singh from the 25m mark, cutting into the circle to find a perfect deflection from Sukhjeet, earned India their second goal in the first minute after the restart.
About 11 minutes later, Sukhjeet struck again. Manpreet Singh fired a long pass from midfield to the kicking circle which was well captured by talented youngster S Karthi who then helped Sukhjeet to his second goal of the game and India’s third against a formidable German defense .
As well as assembling good attacks, with the midfield and front line in sync, India made some smart referrals that kept the German attack at bay.
The visitors, however, managed a goal just before the end of the third quarter when Elian Mazkour set up Paul-Philipp Kaufmann to score.
India presented a superb deep defense in the dying moments of the match, with Germany withdrawing their goalkeeper and adding an extra man to their attack.
Always known for finishing well, Germany scored with just over two minutes remaining before the final whistle. It was Hannes Muller who scored Michel Struthoff’s goal.
The action didn’t stop there and India received a penalty kick in the dying seconds of the game, but Harmanpreet couldn’t convert it. But India eventually held the 3-2 lead and got three points.
Harmanpreet received a yellow card in the fifth minute, as did German Tom Grambusch in the 10th minute.
With recently appointed head coach Craig Fulton yet to join the team, David John was at the helm on Friday, a job he is also expected to do over the next three games.
After their World Cup debacle, India dropped senior players Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh and Amit Rohidas, while goalkeeper Krishan Pathak also missed out due to marriage.
India will face Australia on Sunday and Germany again in the return leg on Monday.
(With PTI inputs)


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