Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sizzling India outclass South Africa 5-2

This piece was published in Sportskeeda

The Indian men’s hockey team must have sprung a surprise of some magnitude when they threw a serious challenge to the world champions Australia before finishing second best. If not a win, the effort of the Terry Walsh-coached side in that game definitely made many other teams sit up and take notice of them.  And on Thursday, India seemed to take off from they left off against Australia scripting an impressive 5-2 win over South Africa at the National Hockey Center in Glasgow to storm into the semifinals.

Of course, the Sardar Singh-led let their foot off the accelerator in the second half, but it cannot be denied that the team was teeming with confidence after their resolute and ‘respectable’ defeat against the Kookaburras. One can see the soaring confidence of the Yellowshirts when Vokkaliga Raghunath fired home India’s first penalty corner in only the 3rd minute of play. Hardly had the 12th ranked South Africans settled into any kind of rhythm, Rupinder Pal Singh made the scoreline 2-0, making the most of a short corner, exuding the impression that India’s PC conversion rate is on the upswing.

India consistently attacked from the right flank and their moves fructified when Ramandeep Singh, who scored a fine goal against Australia, netted the third goal after being fed up by Akashdeep Singh in the 22nd minute. SV Sunil, who had a poor World Cup, scored the fourth goal in the 28th minute – again a move from the right after Nikin Thimmaih set it up.

South Africa did not know how to respond to India’s onslaught and seemed resigned to their fate as they trailed 0-4 at half-time. The half-time pep talk from the South African coach seemed to work as they were a transformed side in the second half.

The green-and-yellow brigade made India work hard for ball possession and started to create cracks in the Indian defence, scoring two quick goals in the 45th and 47th minutes to raise visions of an even contest.

India did not left anything to chance and midfielder Manpreet Singh came up with a superb goal tumbling in front of the South Africa citadel in the 57th minute to ensure their opponents only needed to go through the motions.

The match was marred by rough play as both umpires flashed yellow cards on a regular basis. Indian captain Sardar Singh was yellow-carded for a nasty challenge on a South African player as his team closed out the final six minutes of play with him in the sin box. The result was never in doubt, especially after India scored the fifth goal as a 4-2 lead in modern hockey can be too close for comfort.

India will now back themselves to dish out a similar performance against 6th ranked New Zealand in the semifinals on Saturday.

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