India launched a stinging script on the Hero Hockey Champions Trophy 2016 but fell behind in the last quarter as defending champions Germany staged a late comeback to escape from the jaws of defeat with a 3-3 draw at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Friday.
The Germans, ranked World No 3, have always been known to be strong when it comes to the Hero Hockey Champions Trophy 2016 having won this prestigious tournament 10 times, including the last one in Bhubaneswar, India in 2014 and raised hopes of an 11th title. But that was not forthcoming, at least not in the early proceedings of the match which saw the Indians hold a tight grip with a stunning performance here.
Twice the Germans rallied back to close the gap but Roelant Oltmans India was undeniably in its element, seeking to increase their own confidence by adding to their only Champions Trophy medal — a bronze — they won at Amsterdam in 1982, and also boosting their ambitions and hopes for the Rio Olympic Games.
Tom Grambusch and Benedikt Furk of Germany tackle Mandeep Singh of India during the FIH Men’s Hero Hockey Champions Trophy 2016 (FIH/Getty Images)
India’s coach Oltmans, said: “It was a little disappointing as we had a huge chance of scoring. Some of the players were inexperience and cost us a little but to get a 3-3 draw against the Olympic champions we should be happy with this result.”
Germany’s head coach, Valentin Altenburg said he is happy with the way his team came back for the draw after a rousing start but was not good enough considering they had to struggle in search of the equaliser.
“The individual creativity from India was amazing and we can only be happy with the draw. The mistakes we did were very dangerous for us. We came back better in the second half and in the end very satisfied with the performance of the team,” said Altenburg.
South Korea, the only other Asian team in the Hero Hockey Champions Trophy 2016, turned on the throttle and power to outside Belgium 2-0 for with this morale boosting performance against the World No 5 side.
Midfielder Jihun Yang opened scoring for Korea in the 26th minute from a penalty corner and Manjae Jung added the second with a brilliant field goal in the 43rd minute.
It took World No 7 India seven minutes to break the deadlock via VR Raghunath’s penalty corner which went to the right of goalkeeper Tobias Walter. It was also a grand way to comeback into international hockey for Raghunath after being rested for the Sultan Azlan Shah Trophy in Ipoh, Malaysia recently.
India were also denied a second goal just after the opener following a powerful run by team captain Sunil Sowmarpet inside the penalty area, latching on a pass to put the ball past Walter. The celebration, however, was put on hold as the match umpire had called for a referral and it was confirmed that the ball had clipped Sunil’s foot before his strike.
The Germans, however, equalised in the 26th minute through Tom Grambusch’s penalty corner – Germany’s third leading up to the second quarter – and nothing India’s most experience goalkeeper P. Sreejesh could do.
Mandeep Singh added the second for India within seconds later after picking the ball in front of the goalmouth following a superb run and pass from his captain on the right side of post. He moved to the front of his marker and tipped the ball past Walter while Harmanpreet Singh scored the third to give India a 3-1 lead via a penalty corner in his most fashionable and trademark act – a low and hard flick through.
Germany bounced back in the third quarter through Grambusch’s second penalty corner to make it 2-3 and just when India was heading towards a comfortable and meaningful victory the Germans earned a penalty stroke in the 57th minute and Jonas Gomoll made no mistake to save the Germans the blushes in this opening encounter of the Champions Trophy.
India’s next round-robin league fixtures are against Great Britain on Saturday (June 11), Belgium (June 13), South Korea (June 14) and Australia (June 16).
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