Bhubaneswar: Indian Hockey teams ,men and women, virtually assured themselves Olympic places as they chalked out contrasting wins over Russia and the United State at the Kalinga Stadium here on Friday.
Indian men beat Russia 4-2 while women outplayed the USA 5-1 in their respective first leg matches With home advantage and sitting fully 17 places above Russia in the FIH World Rankings, it came as little surprise that India’s men started this contest as heavy favourites. However, it proved to be far from straight-forward for the hosts, who were made to dig deep to secure a 4-2 victory against an opponent that gave a terrific account of themselves.
India took the lead in the first quarter thanks to a penalty stroke from Harmanpreet Singh after team captain Manpreet Singh had been fouled, but Russia hit back when an overhead pass was collected and emphatically dispatched by Andrey Kuraev. Russia had good chances to move ahead before Mandeep Singh put India into a 2-1 lead at half time. Fourth quarter goals from SV Sunil and a second for Mandeep gave the hosts a 4-1 advantage, but Semen Matkovskiy’s late penalty corner keeps Russia’s interest in this two-legged qualifier very much alive.
Talking to media persons after the match Indian coach Graham Reid said “I am not surprised with the Russian performance. They came out and played very well. Full credit to them. The world rankings systems, it looks like they are 22 in the world. But they are a really good team. That’s what I have been telling all along. They had no pressure, went in as the underdog.He however was candid in his admission saying ” I was disappointed with the way our boys played. I have spoken to them about that. Hoepfully, there will be a reaction tomorrow. We can show everyone tomorrow how well we can play. I just asked them, who can play better tomorrow? Of course, they all put their hands up. They will have their opportunity to show us how well they can play. ”We needed to get the ball into the midfield today. We did not get enough play thorugh the midfield. It gets very difficult to get flow when those connections are missing. ” he added.
Earlier the Indian women outwitted USA to emerge 5-1 winner.It was the Americans who were largely dominant in the first two quarters of the match. However, the Indians found themselves ahead at the break when Lilima Minz scored from an improvised penalty corner. While the hosts were perhaps fortunate to have the half-time lead, the quality of their performance in the third and fourth quarters ensured that they were fully deserving winners of this contest.
Sharmila Devi, Gurjit Kaur (2) and Navneet Kaur all found the target as the India dominated proceedings, before Erin Matson’s late consolation goal to give the USA a small glimmer of hope going into tomorrow’s second leg.
After the win Indian coach Sjoerd Marijne said: ” I think in the first 28 minutes, we struggled with nerves, We lost the ball too fast. We gave them too many oportunites. Luckily they didn’t make it, otherwise match would have been different. ”Making use of opportunities is a quality, which we did pretty well today. You could see the nerves were gone and we played to our potential. “We were up 5-0 and wanted to keep that score. But we fell back a bit too much and need to improve on that tomorrow. Girls were happy with the result but not extremely excited. They know we have to play to our potential. He however dismissed a query that Indian women have assured themselves a place in the Olympics ‘No, absolutely not. You know how the process can go. You don’t get ticket to tokyo today. You can get it tomorrow. You have nothing so far.””I think we were very effective. You cannot expect that always to happen . We are happy today but not sure it would happen again tomorrow. “HSB