India's Hockey World Cup campaign in tatters, writes Sundeep Misra
If India had their way, they would stop the match clock at the 69th minute. For the second straight match, India dominated proceedings but couldn' close out the game. Worse, they let down their guard allowing England to score in the last minute and win this crucial Pool A encounter 2-1 here in the World Cup at the Kyocera Stadium.
India's Yuvraj Walmiki (left) protests a decision that went England's way in the game yesterday
In their last match against Belgium, India were all on their way to earning a point but the Belgians sank a match-winner in the last 30 seconds to snatch a winner.
Against England, the setting was the same, the game locked at 1-1 and the clock ticking away just past the 69th when the penalty corner was awarded.
It was saved brilliantly by Sreejesh. But the Indian goalkeeper ought to know better that rebounds have a mind of their own. This one fell near Simon Mantell's stick and he hammered in a reverse shot that broke Indian hearts.
Indian coach Terry Walsh had difficulty explaining the loss. "It's frustrating and disappointing that we don't have points after two matches. But there has been huge improvement. We are playing against the world's best sides and honestly, it was a game we should have won."
England had a poor first half, but credit also to India that they didn't allow them to settle down. The strategy was quite clear. India was slowing down the pace, keeping the ball and the momentum in the midfield. Sardar and Manpreet at the back dominated play. It was a constant sight that India build up its attack and then used the strikers and the left flank to stretch the England defence.
India had three penalty corners in the 11th minute, in quick succession. But the robust English defence held on. It was only in the 14th minute that England had a shot at the Indian goal.
On the other side, India had two clear looks at the English goal. Mandeep had an opportunity in the 24th minute when a beautiful cross from Dharamvir Singh found him in the middle of the striking circle.
But the shot went over the bar. In the 27th minute, a stupid error from Yuvraj Walmiki, who should have been away on the five yard rule, rushed the English player and the Argentinian umpire Montes gave England its first penalty corner. Mark Gleghorne was on target.
But with five minutes to go, Sardar, as only he can, held onto the ball and gave it to Dharamvir Singh who received with his back to the English goal. In a swift movement, he turned and clipped the ball that rose and went into the England goal. India had equalized 1-1.
Even though England did come back strong, India held away; they held control over the game. In the 41st minute, Yuvraj Walmiki, hovering on the English circle wasn't allowed to take a shot as the Argentinian umpire pointed for a stroke. England rushed for a video referral.
The video umpire gave the verdict in favour of England. "I don't know how these things work," said Terry. "From a stroke to nothing. I am as bewildered as you are."
India slowed the pace further not giving England the pace. India could have still closed the game if Mandeep and Sunil had focused on putting the ball in instead of the ferocity of the shots.
England embarked on a last attack bid and earned a penalty corner when Indian defenders stick checked the English forwards. With just over a minute to go, Sreejesh dived and saved the penalty corner.
But lost focus for a few seconds which were enough for Simon Mantell to hammer in a reverse shot home. After two matches, India don't have any points and will meet Spain on Thursday followed by Malaysia and reigning champions Australia.
The number of shots that India had at goal against England yesterday