Indian hockey’s love affair with the Birsa Munda International Hockey Stadium continued with the team extending its unbeaten run at the venue with a 6-3 win against Germany in the FIH Pro League on Monday. This was India’s second consecutive victory against the World Champion in four days.
Abhishek and Selvam Karthi struck a brace each, and Harmanpreet Singh and Jugraj Singh converted one penalty corner apiece. It was heartening to the see youngsters stepping up to take responsibility. The management experimented with players and positions and came good in its attempts.
India had a couple of chances early on but Sukhjeet Singh could not get a deflection before the team conceded in the 3rd minute. But the Indians, instead of trying to play catch up, decided to go all out in attack. It was a display of aggression more than desperation and the fearlessness – something that has marked the Indian performance in the three games so far – was again on display.
Like against Australia, the 2nd quarter was all about Indian pace and accuracy - on ground and in air. After missing a couple of half-chances in front of goal, Jugraj restored parity, shooting through Alexander Stadler’s legs in the 21st minute. It was the start of a six-minute period of goal frenzy that saw India score three more to lead 4-2 at half time.
Harmanpreet’s accurate aerial all the way from the Indian defence was brought down perfectly by Abhishek. The forward took three steps ahead, turned and smashed a reverse. Karthi added another and Harmanpreet slotted into the net. Gonzalo Peillat added one of his own in the 23rd minute.
Malte Hellwig reduced the margin on resumption but that was to be the end of German goals. Unlike against Australia, the Indians did not let up and even though Germany dominated the period, there was never a sense of India losing control. The players implemented the basics and were less erratic as the host added two more in the final 15 minutes.
In Hardik Singh’s absence, Dilpreet Singh shouldered the midfield burden and stood out as the engine room of the team with support from Rabichandra Moirangthem and Vishnukant Singh. This was probably India’s most inexperienced midfield in recent times.
Manpreet played deep, often swapping places with Harmanpreet. Karthi, Abhishek and Sukhjeet were rarely out of position, regardless of goals scored. Goalkeeper Pawan Malik outdid his performance against Australia on Monday. Most importantly, the newcomers in the side displayed a game and positioning sense that augurs well for the future.
The Result: India 6 (Jugraj Singh 21’, Abhishek 22’ 51’, Selvam Karthi 24’ 46’, Harmanpreet Singh 26’) bt Germany 3 (Tom Grambusch 3’, Gonzalo Peillat 23’, Malte Hellwig 31’).