Indian captain Manpreet Singh guided his team to a hard-earned victory against Poland in the current FIH Series Finals hockey tournament in Bhubaneshwar, on Friday. Manpreet scored twice to help team India register a 3-1 win over their opponent. After a non-productive first quarter, he scored in the 21st and 26th minute while drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh found the back of the nets from a penalty corner in the 36th minute to help India post their second consecutive victory.
The solitary goal from the Polish side was scored by Mateusz Hulboj in the 25th minute. Though the world number 5 India won two games on the trot, their performance seemed shaky and not up to the mark, especially after the way they had defeated the same side 10-0 three months ago.
In their usual style, the Indians started the game slow as Polish forwards created the first goal-scoring opportunity. They had received a penalty corner in the first minute itself, only to waste it. The Manpreet Singh-led side then gradually got hold of the game but the defender on the other side resisted them successfully in the first quarter.
India’s first shy at the goal came in the sixth minute when Mandeep Singh teamed up with Akashdeep Singh to create a chance but the latter’s attempt was cleared off the line by Polish goalkeeper Maciej Pacanowski.
It took India 20 minutes to earn first penalty corner but Harmanpreet Singh’s try was saved by the Polish custodian. A minute later, India secured another penalty corner and this time Manpreet scored from a rebound after Amit Rohidas’ initial flick was blocked by Pacanowski. Another short corner came in India’s way two minutes later but they wasted the chance while going for variation.
Poland stunned India in the 25th minute to draw level, courtesy a defensive lapse from Hardik Singh, who failed to stop Joseph Hillyer’s pass from outside the D and got a deflection which fell in front of Hulboj and he made no mistake in slotting the ball home. But Poland’s joy was shortlived as India restored their lead within a minute when Manpreet scored his second goal of the day after a fine one-touch play with Simranjeet Singh on the right flank to go into the breather leading by a slender margin.
Six minutes into the third quarter, India extended the scoreline when Harmanpreet neatly converted a penalty corner. The Indian earned another penalty corner minutes later but wasted the opportunity. The third quarter was all about India’s misfiring forward line as despite creating numerous scoring opportunities the strikers lacked in finishing. India will take on Uzbekistan in its last pool match on June 10, while Poland, who defeated the Uzbeks 4-0 in their opener, will face Russia on Sunday.
(With inputs from PTI)