Varun Kumar and Mandeep Singh struck in dying minutes of the game as the Indian men's hockey team pulled off a thrilling 4-3 win over England to top Pool B in the Commonwealth Games on Wednesday. It was Varun Kumar (59th minute) who scored the 3-3 equaliser through a well-struck penalty corner before Mandeep Singh (60') scored the winner.
Rupinder Pal Singh (51') and Manpreet Singh (33') were the other goal scorers for India while David Condon (17'), Liam Ansell (52') and Sam Ward (56') struck for England. India's final league game also decided their semifinal opponents. They will take on New Zealand while England will face defending champions Australia.
It was Manpreet's fierce strike from the midfield that found a deflection off Mandeep's stick and ensured a sensational win for India.
This kind of hard work on the field is what we trained for in the last few weeks in Bengaluru where we paid a lot of attention to discipline and winning mentality. I'm happy this has come in the right moment in the tournament after an average start, said chief coach Sjoerd Marijne.
Talking about the semifinal against New Zealand, the coach said: "I want the team to keep up this winning momentum. New Zealand are a good team, they did well against Australia and I want our boys to soak up this energy from this match against England and focus on the semifinal."
It was a tussle to the top spot in Pool B and both India and England lived up to the billing with entertaining hockey, pushing each other hooter-to-hooter.
Though India were quick to attack with Gurjant and Lalit Upadhyay taking shots on goal in quick succession only three minutes into the first quarter, England upped the ante soon after with Mark Gleghorne creating a goal scoring opportunity as he helped win the first PC for England.
However, Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh was stunning in his effort to pad-away Gleghorne's fiercely-struck flick.
England though dominated the proceedings in the first and second quarter with disciplined structure, keeping the ball for long spells, and came up with a good man-to-man marking that kept the Indian forwards in the hunt to create space.
England struck first in the 16th minute when Gleghorne opened-up the counter-attack racing into the right flank, a strong cross to Adam Dixon saw him assist goal-scorer David Condon who came up with a brilliant backhand shot to give England a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute.
An Indian infringement in the following minute saw England win their second PC of the match, but Sreejesh was unrelenting yet again.
India's wait for an equaliser finally ended in the 33rd minute when skipper Manpreet struck from the top of the circle after a good assist from Mandeep, who couldn't take a shot on goal himself with two English defenders tackling him.
Earlier though a PC opportunity was lost out by India when Harmanpreet Singh's drag-flick was obstructed by England's first rusher. The 1-1 equaliser ensured the third and the fourth quarter would be fought with great vigour and that is exactly what transpired.
India continued to dominate the third quarter as Rupinder Pal Singh earned India the much-needed 2-1 lead when he converted a PC in the 50th minute. But defensive errors in the circle saw India give away two crucial PCs soon after.
England, meanwhile, punished India for their mistakes as Liam Ansell and Sam Ward swiftly converted PCs in the 52nd and 56th minute respectively, snatching a 3-2 lead. But the action continued with India putting up an aggressive front.
Akashdeep Singh helped India win a PC in the dying minutes of the match, with India pulling out the goalkeeper to add an extra man to their attack. The tactic worked with Varun Kumar finding the equaliser with a well-struck drag-flick.
A powerful pass from Manpreet that sliced into the top of the circle was deflected into the goal by Mandeep, sealing the issue for India.
(With PTI Inputs)