Monday, September 20, 2021

India beat Great Britain 3-1 to enter semis of Olympics men’s hockey after 49 years

Indian players celebrate after winning the men's hockey quarterfinal match against Great Britain at the Tokyo Olympics. (AP Photo)

TOKYO, August 1: A determined Indian men’s hockey team advanced to the Olympic semifinals for the first time in 49 years, beating Great Britain 3-1 in the quarterfinals on Sunday, a triumph which leaves the side within touching distance of a medal that has proved elusive for over four decades.

The eight-time former Olympic champions scored three field goals through Dilpreet Singh (7th minute), Gurjant Singh (16th) and Hardik Singh (57th) to seal the win.
Great Britain’s lone goal was scored by Sam Ward from a penalty corner in the 45th minute.
India will take on world champions Belgium in the semifinal on Tuesday.
India’s last of the eight Olympic gold medals came way back in the 1980 Moscow Games but there were no semifinals in that edition as only six teams participated in the event.
For a country that gave the world stalwarts like Major Dhyan Chand and Balbir Singh Senior among others, it has been especially painful to watch the hockey teams’ Olympic debacles before this edition.
The last time India featured in the semifinals of the Olympics was in 1972 Munich Games where they lost 0-2 to arch-rivals Pakistan.
It was the edition in which American swimming legend Mark Spitz won seven gold medals, a feat which was overshadowed by the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches by Palestinian terrorists at the Olympic Village.
Belgium defeated Spain 3-1 in another quarterfinal to seal their place in the last four round.
The other semifinal of the men’s hockey competition will be played between Australia and Germany.
By virtue of this win, India now have a 5-4 win-loss record over Great Britain in the Olympic Games.
In Sunday’s tie, Great Britain enjoyed the early share of exchanges, earning their first penalty corner as early as in the third minute but India defended well to keep the danger away.
The Indians got their footing into the match as time went by and took the lead in the seventh minute through Dilpreet, who pushed the ball past Great Britain goalkeeper after being fed by Simranjeet Singh.
It was Simranjeet who created the chance after he stole the ball from a Great Britain defender just outside the latter’s circle.
Two minutes from the first quarter, India custodian PR Sreejesh made fine reflex saves to deny Great Britain.
The Indians didn’t let their rivals settle down and doubled their lead seconds into the second quarter through Gurjant.
It was Hardik who created the opportunity by intercepting a pass just outside the Great Britain ‘D’ and then sent the ball to an unmarked Gurjant, who kept a calm head to put the ball into the net through the legs of opposition goalkeeper Oliver Payne.
In the 35th minute, Gurjant had another chance to extend the lead but his reverse hit from a tight angle was easily saved by Payne.
Thereafter, it was all Great Britain as they pressed numbers in front in search of goals.
Leading by two goals, the Indians dropped back and tried to defend the lead but the move proved costly as minutes from the end of the third quarter Great Britain secured four back-to-back penalty corners the last of which was put into the back of the net by Ward.
With 15 more minutes remaining and just a goal behind, Great Britain went on the offensive in the final quarter, throwing numbers into their attacks as the Indians struggled to control the onslaught.
Great Britain succeeded in their efforts as they earned three more penalty corners in the match but their doubtable Sreejesh rose to the occasion and pulled off saves after saves to keep his side ahead.
India extended their lead against the run of play in the 57th minute when Hardik scored with a rebound from a counter-attack after his initial shot was saved by Great Britain goalkeeper Payne.
That goal sealed the tie in India’s favour as down by two goals and with just three minutes remaining, Great Britain players’ shoulders dropped down.
Once the hooter went off to declare the match’s end, Indian players had tears of joy as they hugged and congratulated each other.
Belgium send Spain packing to join Australia, Germany in men’s hockey semis
Belgium beat Spain 3-1 on Sunday to qualify for the semi-finals of the men’s hockey tournament at the Tokyo Olympics, joining Australia and Germany who had already advanced to those stages.
Spain led 1-0 at halftime, but the Red Lions pulled level in the third quarter when top-scorer Alexander Hendrickx netted off a penalty corner.
The world champions then scored twice more to seal the win. They will take on the winner of the clash between India and Britain on Tuesday.
Earlier on Sunday, Australia reached the semi-finals by beating the Netherlands in a penalty shootout in sizzling Tokyo heat, while Germany overcame Argentina.
A powerful performance by goalkeeper Andrew Charter, who kept a clean sheet in the shootouts – won 3-0 by Australia after the score was 2-2 at the end of regular playing time – helped the Kookaburras win the match.
“It’s bloody amazing,” said Charter. “To come out here and carry the burden for a bit, it’s good for my confidence and it’s good for the team defensively moving forward.”
The Australians had pulled ahead twice in the game, thanks to two goals by Tom Wickham, only to see the hard-fighting Dutch side equalise through goals by Mink van der Weerden and Jeroen Hertzberger.
Dutch goalie Pirmin Blaak recognised Charter’s role in the shootouts.
“Charter saved a few and it was hard to get pressure on the Aussies,” he said.
“I think if you miss three (penalty shots) and they score three, they deserve to win.”
The result meant the Dutch men’s squad won’t play the semi-finals of the Olympic hockey tournament for the first time since 1984.
Australia will face Germany on Tuesday after the Germans secured an easy victory over Olympic champions Argentina.
Germany opened the score in the 19th minute when defender Lukas Windfeder shot a penalty corner low and hard at the left side of the goal, leaving Argentina goalkeeper Juan Vivaldi no chance to stop the ball.
Ten minutes into the second half, the German side added to their advantage after scoring through another penalty corner, which gave them little left to fear from the Argentineans.
“It’s hot weather and hot-minded Argentina and we just want to keep it cool and play our German style and I think we did exactly that,” said forward Christopher Ruhr.

The fourth quarter saw one goal from each side, including Windfeder’s second, leaving the final score at 3-1. (PTI/Agencies)