Bhubaneswar: India over powered spirited Poland 3-1 for their second successive win while Russia trounced Uzbekistan 12-1 on the second day of the FIH Men’s hockey Series Finals here on Friday.
The Poles were the first to go on the offensive with a fine shot from Mateusz Hulboj following a penalty corner. Gradually, the pressure mounted on Poland’s goal but the European side was defending well and proceeding in counter-attacks. And so Poland ended the first quarter without having conceded a goal despite the pressure from the higher ranked Indian team.
In the second quarter, India were pushing hard to open the scoring. Following a penalty corner, Polish goalkeeper Maciej Pacanowski made another great save but India’s captain Manpreet Singh was well positioned in the circle. He pounced on the ball and did not let such an opportunity go away, slotting the ball home. India took the lead and the home crowd was delighted.
Nevertheless, after that, the hosts did not make the most of several opportunities they created and, as is often the case in such situations, that paved the way for their opponents to equalise, through the always dangerous Hulboj, who benefited from a mistake by the hosts’ defence.
India instantly went back on the attack. And, once again, the experienced team captain led the way, concluding a brilliant combination with Mandeep Singh with a fine shot to reestablish the lead.
The second half started on a similar pattern, with India pushing to increase their lead and Poland sparing no effort to defend properly and use every opportunity they could to get closer to India’s goal.
The home team managed to add another goal in the third quarter, with Harmanpreet Singh finding the target from another penalty-corner. Shortly later, Mandeep Singh had a huge chance to score but this brought a further great save from Poland’s goalkeeper.
With this result, India sits at the top of Pool A and Poland will play a decisive game against Russia in two days.
Captain Manpreet Singh: ”I was happy when I scored that second goal because we were at 1-1. After that, I talked to my team and said that we needed to raise our level and that’s what we did. I’m so happy to get the Man of the match award but I think this is all due to my teammates because of their hard work as well.”
Poland’s Piotr Kozlowski: “It was a very tough match. India is one of the best teams in the world. We lost this match but I’m very happy for my teammates and for my team because we worked very hard and scored one goal. I’m proud of my team. It was key for this game to work very hard in defence, if possible looking for counter-attacks and getting penalty corners. It was very tough for us but we learnt a lot from this match. We feel good and we’re waiting for the next match against Russia.”
In another match of the day, Russia recovered quickly from their heavy loss against India yesterday by defeating Uzbekistan on an even larger score (12-1). It’s not that often that a team’s goal difference moves from -10 to +1 in less than 24 hours! But this is what Russia managed to achieve today.
After a good shot from distance from Marat Khairullin was saved by Uzbekistan’s goalkeeper Marsel Askarov, Semen Matkovskiy opened the scoring for Russia through a drag-flick from a penalty corner shortly before the end of the opening quarter. And it was a matter of seconds before Russia doubled the score thanks to Alexander Skiperskiy.
Despite a nicely executed attack from the Asian side at the very beginning of the second quarter, Russia largely increased its advantage during that period.
In quick succession, Semen Matkovskiy from a penalty stroke, Sergey Lepeshkin from short-distance, Alexander Skiperskiy with a beautiful individual movement to hit the ball past the goal-line and Alexey Sobolevskiy close to the goal, all found the target. And, as if two goals were not enough for Russian drag-flicker Semen Matkovskiy before half-time, he scored again following a penalty corner.
But this plethora of conceded goals did not undermine the Asian players’ morale and their efforts were rewarded when Khakimboy Khakimov scored with a drag-flick from a penalty corner just before half-time.
In the second half, the Russians showed no sign of slowing down. In fact, they added five more goals to their tally with a nice deflection from Mikhail Proskuriakov; an unstoppable close-range shot from Marat Khairullin; two consecutive drag-flicks from a penalty corner from Semen Matkovskiy – who eventually scored no less than five goals in that match – and a final goal from Denis Starienko one minute before the end of the match.