Tokyo: Following a 1-7 loss against Australia, the Indian Men’s Hockey Team bounced back in style as they outclassed Spain 3-0 in their third match of the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
It was Rupinder Pal Singh (15′, 51′) and Simranjeet Singh (14′) who scored for India while PR Sreejesh ensured a clean sheet to bring India’s Olympics campaign back on track.
India started off in an aggressive manner with a structured attack and dominated the possession in the early minutes. Challenging the opponent’s defence, India made their moves in Spain’s half and created potential goalscoring opportunities, but the Spanish goalkeeper Francisco Cortes was on target to ward off early danger.
His compatriots on the other hand did well to put India on the backfoot when they won the first Penalty Corner in the 12th minute, but Indian defence stood tall. In the 14th minute, India managed to draw first blood with Simranjeet’s quick-fire field goal. He received a lethal pass from the right flank and slotted it into the goal post from close range. A minute later, India won back-to-back Penalty Corners, which resulted in a Penalty Stroke, and Rupinder converted into a goal with ease making the scoreline 2-0 at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Spain started aggressively and earned a Penalty Corner in the 17th minute, but India’s custodian made a perfect save to keep India ahead in the game. Minutes later, David Alegre tried to make a move from the left flank and took the shot on target from a narrow angle, which was cleared by Sreejesh who has been in sublime form. Spain, desperately looking for a goal, earned their second Penalty Corner in the 24th minute, but yet again failed to convert it. Maintaining their structure, and playing a controlled game, India ended the second quarter with a comfortable 2-0 lead.
The third quarter saw both teams fight for possession and though Spain displayed better attack with Xavier Lleonart and David Alegre penetrating India’s circle, the Indian defence continued to remain resolute. During the counterattack, upped India’s hopes of a third goal but Dilpreet Singh’s cross attempt was blocked by Spain’s custodian Cortes. However, it was a dramatic last minute of the quarter, when Spain found the back of the net but only after the sound of the hooter. But a good referral won them a Penalty Corner. Indian defence successfully defended it to keep the scoreline 2-0 at the end of the third quarter.
India resorted to full-fledged defending in the initial minutes of the final quarter. However, in the 51st minute, India earned a Penalty Corner, which was duly converted by Rupinder giving India a formidable 3-0 lead. In the 53rd minute, Spain earned three penalty corners in a row but again failed to convert it. Spain going all out in attack was awarded the eighth Penalty Corner in the 57th minute, and Sreejesh yet again standing like a rock under the bar ensured India earn three more valuable points and kept a clean sheet with the 3-0 result.
Post-match comments from Chief Coach Graham Reid: Better result today, but a lot of things to work on from an improvement perspective. The fact that we gave too many corners, that’s always a concern when that happens. But the team did really well in terms of defending the PC. The first quarter was played very well, we could move the ball really well and it was exactly what we planned to do. I think 2-0 is the worse score in hockey because after that we were relaxed and we struggled a bit in the second and third quarter to get back in the game. We managed to do that in the fourth quarter and tried to play simple hockey and that’s what we ended up doing.