Hockey: Mandeep Singh sizzles for India
Men in Blue hold their nerve to edge out Australia 4-2 in shoot-out to reach final after a 15-year gap; set up title clash with Belgium on Sunday
Indian players celebrate after defeating Australia in the semi-final of the Junior World Cup hockey in Lucknow yesterday. Pic/PTI
Lucknow: With a bit of luck and lot of pluck, India entered the final of the 11th FIH Junior World Cup hockey championship after edging out Australia 4-2 in shoot-out after the regulation time had ended in a 2-2 stalemate.
The hosts will now take on Belgium in the title clash on Sunday. Belgium too required a shoot-out to subdue defending champions Germany 4-3 at the Major Dhayan Chand Stadium here yesterday.
Both India and Australia had their chances but just could not find the clincher in the last 13 minutes, forcing the game into the shoot-out, where Indian goalkeeper Vikas Dahiya excelled when he thwarted Australian attackers Matthew Bird and Lachlan Sharp to tilt the advantage towards the home team.
After Harjeet Singh, Harmanjeet Singh and Armaan Qureshi had netted their tries, it was Vikramjeet, who finally clinched it for the hosts, deftly dodging Aussie custodian Ashleigh Thomas to send the full house into raptures.
This is India’s third entry into the final, having won the title at Hobart in 2001 and finishing second in 1997. In the last edition in Delhi in 2013, they had finished a lowly 10th and now the men in Blue have a realistic chance of
ending the title drought after 15 years.
It was Australia who held the sway over India in the first half and were leading by a 14th minute goal by Tom Craig. India did have their moments, but like against Spain in the quarter-final, they were once again left playing catch up.
In a matter of six minutes, beginning with Gurjant Singh equaliser in the 42nd and Mandeep Singh’s brilliant reverse hit in the 48th, India were in the lead and one thought they had the match under control.
But it was not to be as Lachlan Sharp, against the run of play, deflected a hit into the goal, leaving the home fans stunned. India did fight for the clincher till the end, but it was not to be.
Destined for success
India were destined to enter the final as they outclassed the Aussies in the shoot-out. India were successful in all their four attempts while Australians messed up their second and third attempts.
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