Rio 2016 | India scrape past Ireland in the Olympic opener

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Rio 2016 | India scrape past Ireland in the Olympic opener

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Amlan Majumdar

08/06/2016

India got their Olympic campaign off to a winning start with a 3-2 win over Ireland in the Group B fixture at Rio on Saturday. VR Raghunath scored once and Rupinder Pal Singh scored twice from penalty corners, as India held on despite Ireland taking the match to the wire in the end.

India dominated possession in the first quarter without making too many inroads from open play. However, at the end of the first quarter, India received four penalty corners in a row, and VR Raghunath, after squandering his first three chances, finally found the back of the net in his fourth attempt with a low drive into the bottom corner of the net.

Ireland came out with a lot more attacking intent in the second quarter and pushed men forward in search of the equalizer. However, that also left them vulnerable at the back, and with SV Sunil's pace upfront, India had the ammunition required to hurt them on the counter-attack.

Ireland tested India from the first penalty corner they received in the match in the second quarter. From a well-crafted move, John Jermyn found the back of the net through the legs of PR Sreejesh, but the referee ruled it out due to infringement. Meanwhile, Nikkin Thimmaiah missed a glorious opportunity to extend India's lead at the other end from a fast break.

However, India did not have to wait too long for the second goal. While Raghunath took four attempts to find the back of the net from a penalty corner, Rupinder Pal Singh scored on his first attempt right at the end of the second quarter. It was a thundering drag-flick which rocketed into the top corner of the net, even before the goalkeeper could react.

India went into the halftime break with a comfortable 2-0 lead, and the match followed the same pattern in the third quarter: Ireland wasting chances from penalty corners, while India was trying to exploit them on the break.

Ireland finally found the goal they were looking for, and it was none other than Jeremy Jermyn who got his name on the score-sheet with a well-placed drag-flick from a penalty corner. And this time the goal stood.

However, chances of an Irish comeback were eradicated in the fourth quarter by Rupinder Pal Singh. Two attempts. Two goals. Rupinder Pal Singh could not do anything wrong today. Another penalty corner, and another low drive from the defender. Sadly though, the ball struck Irishman Jackson on the knee, who was standing on the line. Soon physios arrived on the field, and Jackson hobbled off.

Ireland did not give up though, and they pulled one back with four minutes remaining on the clock. Conor Harte showed some deft touches and skills to score from a well-worked penalty corner and make it 3-2. The 28-year-old flicked the ball over the top of the onrushing Sreejesh, before putting the ball into an empty net.

However, India manager to hold on, barely, with some desperate defending towards the end, despite a yellow card for Ramandeep Singh. This was a much-needed win for them with much tougher tests awaiting them in the upcoming games.

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