Harpal Singh Bedi
New Delhi: Playing to a plan, India put up a clinical display to overpower Spain 3-0 for their second win at the Hockey competition of the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday 27 July 2021.
Putting behind the debacle they suffered against Australia, India rode on Rupinder Pal’s brace (15,51) and fine goal by last minute inclusion forward Simranjeet Singh (14) to record their second win out of three outings so far.
It was a crucial match for India and Manpreet Singh and his boys knew it. They started off in an aggressive manner with well-coordinated attacks and dominated the possession in the early minutes.
India made incisive forays in rival’s half and created good goalscoring opportunities, but the Spanish goalkeeper Francisco Cortes brought off some good saves.
Spain forwards countered and earned the first Penalty Corner in the 12th minute, but failed to breach the Indian defence.
In the 14th minute, India managed to draw first blood with Simranjeet’s quick-fire field goal. He received a precise pass from the right flank and slammed 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 it to make it 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 Sreejesh made a superb save .
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 .
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 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, but they failed to penetrate the defence.
Indian countered 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. However, they failed to convert it.
India resorted to full-fledged defending in the initial minutes of the final quarter. However, in the 51st minute, India earned a penalty corner, and it was duly converted by Rupinder making it 3-0
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
“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.” said Chief Coach Graham Reid after the match.
“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” he added