How often do we see a bottom placed team knock the best team out of the tournament? Thursday saw a similar situation when host nation India got the better of Great Britain by a margin of 2-1 in the 3rd quarterfinal of the FIH Hockey World League Final in Raipur. Unbeaten in the tournament so far, the British were jolted by a spirited performance from the men in blue and with this win, India have made their way to the semifinals where they meet Belgium. The victory will be a memorable one as India had last beaten Great Britain at the 1980 Champions Trophy.
Goals from VR Raghunath and Talwinder Singh put India ahead in the game. In an intense fourth quarter, Simon Mantell pulled one back for Great Britain and threatened to score a second but the Indian defense managed to keep their opponents at bay.
Raghunath Scores off a Penalty Corner in Q2:
Still looking for their first victory at the Hockey World League Final, India got off to a good start but were soon closed down by the British defenders. The pool ‘A’ winners won a Penalty Corner in the 10th minute and PR Sreejesh had no trouble in cancelling out the incoming drag-flick.
The Indian forwards showed better application in the second quarter and eventually won their first Penalty Corner in the 19th minute. VR Raghunath drove Sardar Singh’s injection to perfection as his low drag-flick darted into the right corner of the goal, leaving the British keeper clueless. India did not refrain from attacking as they found another close attempt when Ramandeep Singh’s brilliant reverse hit came off the crossbar.
India’s second goal came in the 39th minute when Kothajit Singh executed a perfect aerial pass for Talwinder Singh just outside the shooting circle. The latter went on to beat a British defender on the run and then slapped the ball into the goal from a narrow angle to double the lead.
Great Britain threaten India in final quarter, India enter Hockey World League semifinals:
Britain gave their all in the final quarter as they tried every possible move in order to breach the Indian defense. They also brought in a kicking fullback who replaced the goalkeeper and thus added an extra member in the attack. The 52nd minute saw them win a Penalty Corner and Simon Mantell managed to score from a deflection. The goal somewhat dismantled the Indian defense and Britain seemed to take advantage of it. Manpreet Singh and Birendra Lakra continued to remain solid and dispossessed their opponents on several occasions.
Another Penalty Corner effort in the last minute went in vain for Britain as the stopper failed to control the injection and the ball was quickly cleared by the Indian defenders. The hooter signaled end of play and the home crowd erupted in joy. India have made a remarkable comeback by stunning the best team of the tournament. They face Belgium in the semifinals of the Hockey World League and the fans can be assured of yet another mouth-watering contest.
India 2 (VR Raghunath 19′, Talwinder Singh 39′) beat Great Britain 1 (Simon Mantell 52′)