HWL Final: Akashdeep helps India hold Germany to 1-1 draw

Coach Roelant Oltmans had made it clear that he "did not want to see the kind of performance" that came against Argentina "ever again" and the threat clearly worked. India were better in every department of the game, including confidence. They attacked more, kept up the pressure and ensured that the Germans had to earn their goal.

Timur Oruz broke past three Indian defenders to put an unmarked Niklas Wellen through and the latter made no mistake in slotting the ball in.   -  Getty Images

After a pedestrian performance in their opening game, it was a different India that turned up against Germany on Saturday, holding the Olympic champions to a 1-1 draw with a much-improved performance in the Hockey World League Finals here.

Coach Roelant Oltmans had made it clear that he “did not want to see the kind of performance” that came against Argentina “ever again” and the threat clearly worked. India were better in every department of the game, including confidence. They attacked more, kept up the pressure and ensured that the Germans had to earn their goal.

Showing greater urgency right from the beginning, India's first shot at goal came in the fourth minute when Martin Zwicker made a desperate clearance on the goal-line to thwart Chinglensana Singh. A minute later, Sardar Singh's brilliant pass from the half line went waste with Talwinder Singh unable to hold on.

With 53 percent possession, the Indians held control for a major part of the game. The figure was same as against Argentina but the difference was in making use of that advantage. While India had a total of four shots in the opening game, it entered the German ‘D’ 24 times on Saturday.

In comparison, the Europeans could manage only 18, a mark of the much-improved Indian defence.

The constant attack, however, also opened up the defence to counter-attacks and Germany, struggling to come to terms with a resurgent India, struck home in the sixth minute. Timur Oruz broke past three Indian defenders to put an unmarked Niklas Wellen through and the latter made no mistake in slotting the ball in.

The reversal, however, did not put India on the backfoot.

Unlike on Friday, the team kept pressing ahead despite trailing, looking to break into the opposition striking circle and earn a penalty corner. Manpreet Singh and Sardar Singh were outstanding in the midfield, fuelling the forwards with accurate and incisive crosses, advancing from the centre and right.

Goalkeeper P. R. Sreejesh came good yet again under the bar, warding off repeated threats -- two back-to-back saves in the eighth minute and a penalty corner.

The repeated pressing kept the Germans under pressure and in the 48th minute, goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi, finally faltered as Manpreet's pass from the 25 yard line to an unmarked Akashdeep Singh was put through Jacobi's legs for the equaliser.

That goal recharged the Indians and despite being a man down for the last 10 minutes – first with Ramandeep out and then Raghunath picking up a yellow card – the hosts managed to keep Germany at bay. On the flipside, committing fouls in the dying minutes is something the Indian defence, in particular Raghunath, needs to worry about.

Earlier in the day, Australia had to fight hard to edge past Belgium 1-0. Playing fast-paced, end-to-end hockey, the teams swapped possession and control of the game before Jamie Dwyer struck home from an acute angle to put Australia ahead in the 22nd minute. It was a physical, scrappy match that also saw two of Australia's goals disallowed on technical grounds. In the other Pool A match, Great Britain registered an easy 3-1 victory against Canada.

In the final match of the day, Netherlands defeated Argentina 3-2 to move to the top of Pool B. The defending champions were irrepressible in the early stages, establishing a 3-0 lead, thanks to spectacular strikes from strikes from youngster Thierry Brinkman and Seve van Ass before Roel Bovendeert tapped home a fine team move.

However, two goals from Argentine penalty corner expert Gonzalo Peillat dragged Los Leones back into the game and set up a tense final quarter. Despite great pressure from their South American rivals, excellent defensive work ensured that Oranje held on to claim all three points.

“Sometimes you don’t know if it is better to lose 4-0 or 3-2, as it hurts to come so close to making a comeback”, said Argentina captain Pedro Ibarra. “I felt we were the better team today, but we were not so effective in front of goal. We need to make more of our chances when we play our next match against Germany.”

Netherlands scorer Thiery Brinkman said: “The win was ok and the first half was great, especially scoring the three goals, but Peillat is a great penalty corner flicker and is capable of hurting teams. We were defending too much in the final quarter, we need to look at how we played in the early stages.”

Results:

Pool A: Great Britain 3 (Simon Mantell 2, Alastair Brogdon) beat Canada 1 (Mark Pearson); Australia 1 (Jamie Dwyer) beat Belgium 0

Pool B: India 1 (Akashdeep Singh) drew with Germany 1 (Niklas Wellen); Netherlands 3 (Thierry Brinkman, Seve van Ass, Roel Bovendeert) beat Argentina 2 (Gonzalo Peillat).