Bhubaneshwar: Akashdeep Singh and , Rupinder scored two goals each as the Indian men’s team thrashed Russia 7-1 in the second leg of their Olympic qualifiers here on Saturday to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics . The other goal scorers for the hosts were Lalit Upadhyay ,Nilakanta Sharma, Amit Rohidas (one each).
India had won the first leg 4-2, which meant that the aggregate score at the end of the match was 11-3 in their favour.
The hosts got an early scare with Russia scoring within the first 25 seconds of the match through Alexey Sobolevskiy.
However the home side soon started asserting themselves against their opponents and two minutes into the second quarter, Lalit Upadhyay managed to get his stick on Hardik Singh’s shot to make it 1-1. Akashdeep Singh then scored twice in the 23rd and 29th minute to make it 3-1 at half time taking the aggregate score to 7-3.
In the last quarter Nilakanta Sharma, Amit Rohidas and Rupinder Singh (2) found the target as India pumped in four goals to seal the win.
Indian coach G.Reid was visibly pleased with his team’s show saying “You always dream of an Olympics podium finish. I was lucky to win one as a player and those memories are things you hold on to. That’s what we need to bring to this team and give it a big shot.
“I told the players that we have nine months (before Olympics). Just get better and better. That’s our plan. Focus on the process, result will take care of itself.” I think for me what we need to get better in is finishing. We are creating a lot of opportunities, which is great. Need to get more return. Also in deep defence, we have to get tighter. Still giving away too many opportunities (to opponents).” It’s great that we have a squad of 33, which may have to become 32. Pro League is a big opportunity, to work out for the Olympics and there are a lot of games during that period. If all of them play all those games, they won’t be in best shape to play for the Olympics.
Talking about the preprations for the Olympics he said ” What I shared today was the confidence I have in Krishan. For me they both (Sreejesh and Krishan) can be interchangeable. That’s how I want to keep it. Obviously the choice will need to be made for the games. Also Suraj is there.
In the midfield, we have some of the younger players coming through. And Chinglensana is still in the wings, getting better. He is also the defensive midfielder to come back for us.
He dismissed the talk about first game jitters saying ” We aren’t the only ones who had. If you look at Aus women and Dutch men, they also have a little bit of hiccup on the first day. It (format) is a first for everybody.
“There was a lot of pressure. It’s a very pressurised situation that you are in as a team and as coaching taff. It’s credit to everyone involved. As I said before, as far as Russia is concerned, it’s also skills of them today. Very, very good tacklers. They are a really good team. To think we would come out and play fantastically would probably downgrade the opposition.
Captain Manpreet opined “It’s quite good women too have qualified. I want to congratulate the women, they did a lot of hard work and got the goal in the final minutes after being down 0-4. They deserve it. HSB