London (14 June, 2016): A remarkable performance from team captain Sunil Sowmarpet left Korea reeling in the Hero Hockey Champions Trophy as India triumphed 2-1 and moved closer to a podium finish at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Tuesday.
It was a carefully crafted victory by the Indians who dominated territory and ball possession in the first two quarters but could not shake off the Koreans until Sunil’s 39th minute strike started the goals coming.
The goal came off a brilliant move which started from the middle following a superb run from Sunil who relayed the ball to Akashdeep Singh. The two than exchanged passes outside the semicircle before Sunil picks the ball up and dodges the onrushing goalkeeper Hong Doopyo to put India through 1-0 ahead.
The Koreans, themselves chasing a win here to improve their own chances of moving forward after suffering a 1-4 defeat against Britain, pulled back in the 57th minute with a long ball hit that was deflected by Kim Juhan past the reliable goalkeeper P. R Sreejesh. The equaliser brought more thrills into the game as India turned the power on.
Plucky as they have been in the last three matches, India shot ahead 30 seconds later with a deft deflection from Nikkin Thimmaiah off a field goal to keep their hopes alive of reaching the final and provided relief to coach Roelant Oltmans.
“It was a great game from the boys especially in the third and fourth quarters. It was a good win for us to stay ahead as our intention has always been to win a medal here. Our last game against Australia on Thursday is going to be very tough but we will do our very best,” said Oltmans.
The Koreans were equally keen to get back on track, and fight for a place in the all-important final and threw everything at the Indians in the final stages of the match. India earned two penalty corners in the fourth quarter but to no positive response while the Koreans could not find any.
“We had a lot of chances up front but we couldn’t convert,” said India’s striker Manpreet Singh. “I think overall our team performance was very good because we conceded a goal late but in the next minute we hit back with a goal of our own.”
After an impressive win over Great Britain (2-1) and a 4-4 draw against reigning Olympic champions and Champions Trophy title holders Germany but a disappointing performance against Belgium, losing 1-2, on Monday, India now sit second in the chart with seven points from four matches going into the last league fixture against World champions Australia on Thursday.
All India need to do to seal a place in the final is to hold Australia to a draw or at best beat them and move up the ranks as lurking dangerously right behind are Great Britain (5 points) and Belgium (4). Germany’s chances of an 11th title have diminished after playing to a 1-1 draw against Great Briton on Tuesday. They have three points from four matches.
However, should the Britons beat Belgium and India fall against Australia; the final of the Hero Hockey Champions Trophy on June 17 will be between Great Britain and Australia.
Australia amassed 10 points from four matches and is through to the final by crashing Belgium’s hopes of a quick comeback by defeating the World No 5 European side 2-0. Glen Turner turned in a rebound eight minutes into the third quarter and Tristan White made it 2-0 in the 49th minute via a field goal.
The Red Lions fought back immediately claiming two more penalty corners but Australia kept them at bay to celebrate its second win in the Hero Hockey Champions Trophy after thumping Germany 4-3 on Monday. Belgium concludes the preliminary round fixtures against Great Britain while the Germans entertain Korea on Thursday.
“I don’t score too many goals, as everyone keeps reminding me,” said Australia’s Tristan White. “I am just the guy in the right place at the right time. I’d say that they are team goals forced through pressure, but if someone is going to be there to hit it in and that is me than I’m happy with that.”
Here are the current pool standings:
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