The Indian Men’s Hockey team rode on a blistering attack to beat hosts South Africa 10-2 in their second match at the FIH Hockey Pro League 2021/ 2022 being held here at Potchefstroom on Wednesday. New comer Jugraj Singh (4′, 6′, 23′) starred in India’s high-scoring victory as he contributed three brilliant goals to the scoreline with his impeccable drag flicks. His effort won him the Player of the Match award. Harmanpreet Singh (2′), Abhishek (12′), Gursahibjit Singh (24′, 36′), Dilpreet Singh (25′, 58′), Mandeep Singh (27′) were the other goal scorers for India.
The Tokyo Olympics Bronze medallists began the proceedings with lethal attack that exposed the South African defence. They earned a penalty corner as early as the first minute of the game. While Harmanpreet’s first attempt was blocked by South African rusher Keenan Horne, the Vice Skipper for India was perfect in his second attempt with a fiercely struck flick that beat the South African goalkeeper Estiaan Kriek.
The opening goal for India set the pace for their attack as they went on to score three more goals in the first quarter. India’s second and third goal was courtesy Jugraj Singh who impressed with his ability to dragflick. While his first goal was struck powerfully on the top right of the goalkeeper, his next goal which was well-assisted with a good injection by Jarmanpreet Singh and accurate stopping by Vivek Sagar Prasad was struck low on the right of the South African goalkeeper.
An error by the South African defenders saw Abhishek intercept the ball inside the circle only to take a successful shot on goal in the 12th minute. With four goals on board, India ended the first quarter in a dominant fashion with eight shots on goal and 65 per cent ball possession.
Though the second quarter witnessed South Africa create some inroads into the striking circle with Horne taking a potential shot on goal in the 22nd minute, India’s defence held sway to avoid conceding a goal. Meanwhile, the team’s forwardline stitched together a good structure that resulted in back-to-back goals. While Jugraj Singh scored a hat-trick of goals when he converted a PC earned by Abhishek in the 23rd minute, Gursahibjit scored in the 24th minute, Dilpreet in the 25th and Mandeep struck in the 27th minute taking India’s lead to a formidable 8-0 ahead of half-time.
With a strong lead, India seemed to drop the momentum a tad bit in the third quarter. After an initial burst in attack that saw Gursahibjit score his second goal of the match in the 36th minute, a sloppy Indian defence gave way for South African forwardline to create chances in the striking circle. India ended up conceding at least three PCs, out of which they converted one when Daniel Bell pushed the ball past Sreejesh’s left foot in the 44th minute.
The goal did good to the hosts’ confidence as they struck another fine field goal via Richard Pautz in the 45th minute. Though India continued to enjoy a 9-2 lead, the two goals scored by the hosts made them more upbeat in the following minutes of the match as they hunted for a third goal. The final quarter saw both teams create enough opportunities to score. While India’s defence rallied together to avoid conceding a third goal, their forwardline worked together to help Dilpreet score in the 58th minute of the match. Though Indian attack earned a PC in the dying seconds of the match, South Africa defended well to end the match with 10-2 on the score board.
On 12 February, India will take on France at 21:30 hrs IST.