New Delhi, Oct 12: India produced a lion-hearted performance and came back from two goals down to beat England 5-4 in the penalty shoot here today and book a berth in the title clash of the men's hockey event in the Commonwealth Games against world champions Australia.
The Indians displayed great character and determination before a packed Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here, to not only make a remarkable comeback into the match but also kept a cool head to convert all their strokes in the shoot out after both the sides were tied at 3-3 at the end of the regulation 70 minutes.
The match was a tight affair can be gauged from the fact that the 15 minutes of extra time also failed to decide the winner, which brought shoot out into action.
In the shoot out, the onus was on Sarvanjit Singh, Vikram Pillay, Sandeep Singh, Arjun Halappa and Shivendra Singh to deliver the goods and they did not disappoint as all of them converted their strokes with precision.
Indian custodian Bharat Chetri also turned out to be a star for India today as he made an all-important save in the shoot out, denying Glenn Kirkham with a brilliant diving save to his right.
Even though Richard Smith, Richard Mantell, Ashley Jackson and Simon Mantell converted their strokes, Bharat's brilliant save clinched India the victory.
India will now face title holders Australia, against whom they lost 2-5 in the pool stages, in the summit clash on Thursday, while England will take on New Zealand in the bronze medal match.
Tonight's win also gave India their much-awaited revenge over the Englishmen, who beat them 2-3 in the World Cup earlier this year at the same venue.
In the regulation time, India scored through three field goals from Sarvanjit (20th, 60th minute) and Vikram (56th), while England converted three penalty corners through Ashley Jackson (35th, 41st) and Simon Mantell (45th).
As the scoreline suggest, the match was indeed a high-intensity affair from the onset with adrenaline flowing on both sides throughout the encounter.
The Indians were down 1-3 in the match with barely 15 minutes from the hooter but they never gave in. In fact, they showed great fighting spirit to pump in two goals in a span of three minutes to reverse their fortunes.
The opening half was a battle of midfield possession as both the sides tried hard to control the proceedings.
India emerged victorious in controlling the pace of the match initially as their midfield continued from where they left against Pakistan and combined well to ease the pressure on the backline.
The first real scoring chance of the match went to India in the 26th minute when Sarvanjit set it up for Shivendra who, after failing initially with a reverse, pushed the ball wide off the English goal with only custodian James Fair to beat.
India continued to mount pressure on the English defence and in the process earned their first penalty corner of the match after Shivendra found Richard Mantell's foot inside the circle.
The Indians went for variation but Dhananjay Mahadik's low grounded flick was saved by Fair, only to see an alert Sarvanjit pushing the ball home from a goalmouth scramble in the 19th minute.
Three minutes later an unmarked England got a golden opportunity to equalise when Rob Moore found Richard Mantell unmarked inside the circle but the English defender shot wide from what should have been an easy goal.
Thereafter, attacks came in quick succession from the two teams but both failed in finishing.
But 10 seconds from the break England earned their first penalty corner when they found Danish Mujataba's foot inside the circle and from the resultant set piece Jackson scored to go into the breather tied at 1-1.
However, after the change of ends it was a completely a different scenario as England pumped in two quick goals from penalty corners, much to the disappointment of the packed house.
England earned their second penalty corner just five minutes after the breather and once again Jackson was bang on target with his dragflick.
If that was not enough, England made it 3-1 four minutes later when Praboth Tirkey conceded an unnecessary short corner after he pushed English captain Barry Middleton inside the circle.
This time, England went for variation and Simon Mantell made no mistake in putting the ball in the back of the Indian net.
Luck also favoured India as Jackson was denied by the wood work minutes later.
India, however, did not give up as egged by a vociferous home crowd they pressed hard for goals and managed two within a span of three minutes.
Vikram reduced the margin in the 57th minute with a deft touch after Sardara Singh and Sandeep combined to set him up and then Sarvanjit scored his second and the all-important equaliser for his team, yet again from a goalmouth melee to send the spectators into wild celebrations.
In the dying moments of the regulation time, it was all India as they mounted attack after attack on the English goal and in the process missed as many as five chances to take the match into extra time.
In the added time, India came out the better side as they used both the flanks to perfection to put pressure on the English defence but what eluded them was the winner.
But the Indians displayed great composure in the shoot out as they comfortably converted all their spot shots.
Smith and Richard Mantell took the first two shots for England and on both the occasion beat Bharat all ends up.
However, the Indian custodian denied Kirkham in the next shot with a superb diving save to his right to give his side the advantage.
From there on, Sandeep, Arjun and Shivendra made no mistake in converting their shots to give Indian hockey a much-needed 5-4 win in the penalty shoot out. PTI