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Misfiring India post first win in Azlan Shah, beat Canada

The Indian hockey team finally managed their first win of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, defeating Canada 5-3 at the Azlan Shah Stadium on Thursday

Ipoh: Already out of the summit clash, a misfiring India had to toil hard to get the better of a lowly Canada 5-3 and register their first win in the ongoing 24th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament, here today.

Rupinder Pal Singh (13th minute) and V R Raghunath (32nd) scored through penalty corners before Ramanadeep Singh (46th, 47th) scored two field goals, while Satbir Singh (49th) rounded off the tally with another field strike.

For Canada, who are ranked 15th in the world as compared to India's ninth spot, Oliver Scholfield (43rd), Jagdish Gill (49th) and David Jameson (52nd) were the goal getters. Even though India had the better share of possession and ball control, they were far from impressive.

For the fourth straight match, the Indians were guilty of missing numerous chances and their fragile backline as usual conceded soft goals.

In the presence of two big dragflick exponents in Raghunath and Rupinder, penalty corners are considered India's strong point, but they cut a sorry figure in this department as well, utilising just two of the eight short corners that came their way today.

Besides being new chief coach Paul van Ass' first win after taking charge of the team, the only solace from today's game was the performance of its forwardline, who finally showed some form by scoring three fine field goals. It was, however, Canada who had the first shy at the goal when they earned the game's first penalty corner in the fifth minute but Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh made double save to deny the opponents.

Minutes later India got their first scoring chance but Satbir was denied by the Canadian goalkeeper David Carter. Canada had another penalty corner in the ninth minute and Sreejesh was once again forced to come to the action to keep John Smythe's flick away.

Soon India mounted continuous raids into the Canada citadel and in the process earned three quick penalty corners, the last of which was converted by Rupinder in the 13th minute.

India secured another short corner in the second quarter but this time Rupinder was slow to get off the block and from the resultant rebound he shot over. But just two minutes after halftime, India doubled their lead when Raghunath neatly converted his side's fifth short corner.

The scoreline should have been much bigger for India had they not wasted the penalty corners that came their way. In the third quarter, India earned three more penalty corners but wasted all the opportunities.

Canada stunned India when Scholfield scored from a counter attack in the 43rd minute with a powerful reverse hit, which Sreejesh had no answer to. It was a goalfest for the spectators in the fourth and final quarter as Ramandeep, who was off colour till today's match, scored two goals in the span of two minutes to make the scoreline 4-1 in favour of India.

Ramandeep first pushed home after he was set up by Nikkin Thimmaiah in the 46th minute and then he neatly deflected in a Gurbaj Singh's cross from the right in the next minute. Canada pulled one back in the 49th minute through a penalty corner conversion by Gill before Satbir extended India's lead guiding home a pass from Manpreet Singh.

But it was not the end, as India conceded yet another soft goal when Jameson tapped in from close range after an array of defenders failed to stop Gabriel Ho-Garcia's cross. India will next play their toughest match of the tournament against world champions Australia on Saturday.

India are out of Sunday's final race after having garnered just four points from four games with just a win and a draw.

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