Tokyo: Carrying the hopes of an entire nation, the Indian Men’s Hockey Team lived up to the billing with a scintillating 3-1 win against Great Britain in the Quarter Final of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 here at the Oi Hockey Stadium.
India inched closer to end the 41-year medal drought as they booked the Semi Final berth with help of goals from Dilpreet Singh ( 7′), Gurjant Singh (16′ ) Hardik Singh (57′). The overall effort ensured India a place in the Semi Final against World Champions Belgium on Tuesday, 3 August 2021. Samuel Ward (45′) was Great Britain’s lone goal scorer.
Off to a roaring start, India rode on the momentum they built in the group stage as they played with aggression and structured attack. It was Nilakanta Sharma and Mandeep Singh who created the first opportunity for India, but the British defenders marked the Indian attackers well to ward off an early setback. However, in the 7th minute, India struck a brilliant field goal set-up perfectly by Simranjeet Singh which was well-received by the young forward Dilpreet Singh who pushed the ball between Great Britain goalkeeper Ollie Payne’s legs.
Within the first minute of the second quarter India extended their lead to 2-0 when Gurjant Singh received the ball inside the circle, completed a quick turn only to position himself accurately to take the shot. Great Britain, however, showed composure despite the early setback and maintained a good structure to create potential forays into the striking circle. Though they came close to converting a goal in the 28th minute with good teamwork by Zachary Wallace and James Gall, the effort did not result in a goal for Great Britain.
Following the 10-minute halftime break, Great Britain worked on a comeback with better ball possession and improvised attack. But the Indian defence remained calm to keep a goal at bay. Britain’s moment of reckoning came in the re-take of a penalty corner in the 45th minute. A surprise variation master-minded Philip Roper and executed accurately by Samuel Ward helped beat the Indian defenders to earn Great Britain its first goal of the match.
The fourth quarter began with Great Britain earning another PC. They worked a similar variation that earned them the first goal but this time, India’s goalkeeper PR Sreejesh was spot on to avoid an equaliser. Great Britain continued to put India under the pump with a superior display in attack and ball possession. For India, though, Sreejesh was excellent yet again at the post as he made a couple of brilliant saves.
The final six and half minutes of the match was tense when India Skipper Manpreet Singh was awarded a yellow card when he made a diving tackle to halt the British attack. The infringement saw Great Britain being awarded another PC. But thankfully for India, the dragflick was well defended by Sreejesh who remained the cynosure in Indian defence. The last few minutes was nail-biting but a brilliant display of skill and stick work by first-time Olympian Hardik Singh saw India secure a 3-1 lead.
He was fantastic with his speedy dribble to beat the British defenders only to drive into the circle and take a brilliant shot on goal, although the shot bounced off Payne’s pads, Hardik was quick to receive the rebound and make yet another attempt and this time it sounded the board past Payne in the 57th minute. The team’s defence stuck together to hold the lead and ensured India a berth in the Semi Final.
On Tuesday, 3 August, India will take on World Champions Belgium at 0700 hrs IST who beat Spain 3-1 in the Quarter Final to make the final four.