Ramandeep Singh produced a stunning performance in attack to guide India to a 3-1 win over Canada at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on Sunday. The win puts India at third position on the table and should lend new-found confidence as they bounced back from the hammering they received against Australia.
India came into this game with a desperate need for a win, after their big defeat against the Australians in their last match. They started on the front foot and pressed hard all over the pitch. India began to dominate possession of the ball, and in the third minute, they took the lead with a brilliantly manufactured field goal. Rupinder Pal Singh picked out Ramandeep Singh on the left wing with a 60-yard forward pass. Rupinder drilled the ball into the box from the flank, and Nikkin Thimmiah was at hand to poke the ball past the goalkeeper to make it 1-0.
The Indian players grew in confidence with the goal, and they kept the ball out of Canada's reach with some precise passing and movement. Most of India's attack came down the left wing with Danish Mujtaba and Sardar Singh teaming up with Ramandeep to outnumber Canada down the flank.
Harjot Singh's mistake in the 13th minute won Canada a penalty corner against the run of play. However, the goalkeeper atoned for his error with a fine save to deny Gordie Johnston the equalizer.
After dominating most of the first quarter, the Indians grew complacent in the closing stages and nearly handed Canada a way back into the game.
The momentum shifted in the favour of Canada in the second quarter, and Indian goalkeeper Harjot Singh was kept busy by their strikers. In the 23rd minute, Canada finally found the equalizer as Keegan Pereira, who started playing hockey as a six-year-old in India, found the back of the net to make it 1-1, after Matthew Sarmento picked up his run into the box with a delightful reverse pass.
In the 28th minute, a lot of space opened up for Sukhi Panesar, and he ran into the circle unchallenged before releasing a low drive into the bottom corner. However, Harjot got his body behind the ball and kept it out.
But it was just the start of a dominating spell for Canada, who won two back-to-back penalty corners in the dying seconds of the second quarter. The first was won by Richard Heldreth as he played the ball onto the foot of Sannuvanda Uthappa, while the second was won by Keegan Pereira, who found the foot of Surender Kumar inside the circle. Manpreet Singh, who returned to the side for this match, blocked the first penalty corner, while Harjot made a fine save to keep out Johnston's drag-flick from the second.
In the third quarter, Canada dropped a bit deep into their own half and allowed India to enjoy more possession once again, who never really threatened to score. Just when it seemed like the Indian players had run out of ideas to break down the Canadian defence, Nikkin Thimmaiah won India their first penalty corner of the game, in the 41st minute. Harmanpreet stepped up and converted with his drag-flick to score his second goal of the tournament, and gave India the lead once again.
India wasted two golden opportunities to extend their lead with Uthappa missing his shot completely from a counter-attack, while David Carter pulled off a brilliant save to deny Ramandeep Singh from another break. Canada won two back-to-back penalty corners with two seconds left on the clock in the third quarter, but they failed to convert either of them.
India added a third goal in the fourth quarter as substitute Talwinder Singh found the back of the net in the 57th minute. The match ended 3-1 in favour of India, and with it they jump to the top of the table for now. They will now take on New Zealand in their next game on April 13.
Chahal or Axar? Who will take more wickets for India?
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