Junior WC: India seals quarterfinal berth with dominant win over England

India was unstoppable against England as it cruised to a 5-3 win and sealed a berth in the quarterfinals of the Junior Hockey World Cup in Lucknow on Saturday.

Hockey India junior world cup

Indian team celebrates after scoring a goal on Saturday.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

It was an India show all the way as the host stamped its authority and class to register a comprehensive 5-3 victory against England in its second pool D match of the Junior World Cup here on Saturday and ensure a spot in the quarterfinals in the process.

India had had a hesitant start in its tournament opener but against England, it outplayed the opposition in every department of the game. Despite conceding an early goal against the run of the play, there were no signs of the team losing control and soon came back to open up the field and score at regular intervals.

India captain Harjeet Singh had admitted earlier that the opposition, if it plays too defensively, does sometimes affect a team's performance. For England, it was not an option but a forced decision from an aggressive India. The first five minutes saw the host, cheered on by a strong vociferous crowd at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium despite the freezing temperatures, create several scoring chances but missing out on the finishing.

One defensive lapse in the 10th minute saw James Gall pass through four defenders on the top of the circle for Jack Clee to scoop into the net but that was just about all. The supremely fit and extremely quick Indian players attacked in waves, opening up the flanks at will and sending the ball right into the centre of the England circle from all sides.

Harjeet stood out as much for his ball distribution and penetrating passes as for his ability to draw defenders and open up gaps in defence. Roelant Oltmans, stingy with individual praise, had no qualms declaring him the Man of the Match despite the award officially being given to Mandeep Singh.

Varun Kumar's passing was pin-pointed and the forwards' trapping was firm. Harmanpreet and Varun, along with Dipsan Tirkey, hardly allowed any English ball to reach the Indian circle. And Parvinder Singh and Mandeep upfront, along with Armaan Qureshi and Gurjant Singh on either wings, formed a combination that England had no answer to.

While England coach Jon Bleby insisted he was satisfied with his team's performance, he also admitted that allowing India to come back and score the equaliser was perhaps the biggest mistake form his team. “India at home, once it gets the momentum going, there is no way to hold it back. I think conceding two goals when we did in the first half was the key moment,” he said.

That equaliser came in the 24th minute when Varun Kumar's penalty corner and rebound was blocked by England goalkeeper Chris Wyver but not cleared properly, allowing Harjeet to take a third shot, punched out again, before Parvinder tapped it in.

Qureshi put the host ahead on the stroke of half time and 25 minutes of the second half ended any English hopes as India swarmed all over them to add three more. England did pull back two goals, taking advantage of both its numerical strength after Mandeep was sent off for an unwarranted tackle and the appearance of inexperienced goalkeeper Krishan Pathak as substitute, but there was little it could do to avoid its first defeat in the tournament.

Earlier in the day, underdog and tournament debutant Austria stunned erstwhile Asian powerhouse Korea 5-2 to inch closer to making the quarterfinals. Led by former India coach Cedric D'Souza, Austria dominated the game and did not allow Korea any space. Also winning was Australia, who began its campaign in the tournament with an edgy 2-1 victory against Argentina, thanks to a 69th minute penalty stroke by Blake Govers. The result made Argentina's chances of advancing to the knockouts difficult with just one point so far. South Africa beat Canada 3-1 in the day's other match.

The results: Pool A: Austria 5 (Pit Rudofsky 2, Marcel Hilbert, Oliver Binder, Franz Lindengrun) bt Korea 2 (Joohan Park 2); Australia 2 (Matthew Bird, Blake Govers) bt Argentina 1 (Maico Casella); Pool D: South Africa 3 (Kyle Lion-Cachet, Ryan Crowe, Walter Pfaff) bt Canada 1 (Brandon Pereira); India 5 (Parvinder Singh, Armaan Qureshi, Harmanpreet Singh, Simranjit Singh, Varun Kumar) bt England 3 (Jack Clee, Will Calnan, Edward Horler).