The Indian men’s hockey team produced a masterful performance to beat World No. 8 Spain 6-1 in their second match of Tour of Belgium held at Antwerp on Saturday. A brace by Harmanpreet Singh (28′, 32′) along with goals from Manpreet Singh (24′), Nilakanta Sharma (39′), Mandeep Singh (56′) and Rupinderpal Singh (59′) capped off a brilliant performance by the World No. 5 Indian team.
India started the match aggressively and almost immediately were in the ascendancy by creating problems for the Spanish defence with a host of circle penetrations. Despite the possession, India found it tough to win a Penalty Corner or create clear opportunities on goal in the first quarter. It was in fact Spain who won the first Penalty Corner of the game towards the end of the first quarter, forcing India’s Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh into a fine, reflex save to keep the scores level at the quarter break.
India started making more inroads towards the Spanish goal in the second quarter, and very soon were forcing Quico Cortes into pulling smart saves in Spain’s goal.
Finally, in the 24th minute, it was captain Manpreet Singh who broke the deadlock as he slotted home to give India the lead. Within four minutes, the lead was doubled as Harmanpreet scored India’s second of the game through a penalty corner. The drag-flicker executed a perfect drag flick to take India two goals clear. However, it was Spain’s turn to open their account as they pulled a goal back right before half-time, which meant the teams went into break with India leading 2-1.
Almost from the start in the third quarter, India were keen to wrap up the game, with their attacking play stifling Spain and pushing them deeper into their own half. Harmanpreet was on target again as he got his second goal of the game with another penalty corner conversion in the 32nd minute to restore India’s two-goal cushion. Midfielder Nilakanta Sharma added to that with a superbly taken goal in the 39th minute, giving India a 4-1 lead at the end of the third quarter.
India kept control of the game in the final quarter and showed their quality as they did not allow Spain any chance to mount a comeback. Throughout the period, the World No. 5 side kept up their attacking play and consistently pressured the Spanish defence. In the 56th minute, Mandeep scored the team’s fifth goal, before Rupinderpal converted a penalty corner in the 59th minute to register his name on the score-sheet in his comeback match and wrap up a brilliant performance.
The third match of the Tour of Belgium will see India face Spain on September 29 at 1730 hrs IST.