England came back from 1-3 down at the end of the third quarter to finish level with India at 4-4 in a Group B men’s hockey match at the Commonwealth Games on Monday.
India responded to the whistle at a packed University of Birmingham stadium with an all-out attacking approach. The move bore fruit as forward Lalit Upadhyay, having earned a penalty corner, fired a rebound into the back of the net in the third minute of the game.
Although, England earned a penalty corner soon after due to sloppy work in the Indian midfield, Vivek Sagar Prasad put his body on the line to block the shot.
India continued the good show as Mandeep Singh and Nilakanta Sharma combined to produce a spectacular counter-attack. The move ended with Mandeep slotting the ball into the bottom right to score India’s second goal in the 13th minute.
Hardik Singh, midway into the second quarter, threaded the ball to Mandeep inside the D. The Jalandhar-based forward spun around and fired home in the 22nd minute to put India 3-0 ahead.
The English attack found new vigour after the half-time break. Liam Ansell scored in the dying minutes of the third quarter (42nd minute). India skipper Manpreet Singh went upstairs for an eventually unsuccessful video referral and this was when he was jeered by one of the spectators who shouted, “Cannot play them, eh?”
After this, the contest became a tad heated. England midfielder David Condon waded in, trying to get into the head of the Indians, notably cackling when Varun Kumar lost possession on the right flank.
Vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh’s message for his teammates at the end of the third quarter was loud and clear. “Koi apni jagah nahin chodega (no one will leave his position),” he thundered. However, that was not to be.
Multiple suspensions for indiscipline hurt India in the end. Varun received two yellow cards that carried five and 10-minute suspensions, while Gurjant Singh got a 10-minute suspension in the last quarter. At one point in the last quarter, India had nine men on the pitch. Varun returned in the 53rd minute, but Gurjant watched the game from the sidelines till it ended, as India held on for a tense draw.
“We have to work on that (the suspensions). We cannot have so many players spending so many minutes outside the field of play. We will have a discussion about this later today,” Harmanpreet told Sportstar after the game.
Earlier, amid the English fightback, Harmanpreet made it 4-1 in India’s favour after converting a penalty corner with a scorching hit in the 46th minute. He gestured animatedly near the stands after scoring.
However, Manpreet’s men began to lose the plot as England made inroads from this point on. The home side found its feet, egged on by a noisy crowd. England fired three goals through Phillip Roper and Nicholas Bandurak in six minutes in the last quarter to pull level in stunning style and pressed for a win.
Later, Harmanpreet praised the crowd. “I love this crowd. They are very passionate. Of course, they are home English fans, so, it was very noisy. It is a lovely venue. We are looking forward to playing the rest of the games.”
India began its Commonwealth Games campaign on Sunday, beating Ghana 11-0. India is second in Group B (behind England, which has 7 points from three matches) with four points and plays Wales on Wednesday.
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