The Reigning Champions Indian Men’s Hockey Team began their title defence at the 18th Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang 2018 with a stunning 17-0 victory in their first Pool A match .
While India rode on hat-trick of goals by youngsters Dilpreet Singh (7′, 30′, 32′), Simranjeet Singh (13′, 38′, 53′), Mandeep Singh (30′, 45′, 49′), the other goals came from Rupinder Pal Singh (1′, 3′), Akashdeep Singh (10′), SV Sunil (25′), Vivek Sagar Prasad (27′), Harmanpreet Singh (31′), Lalit Upadhyay (45′), Amit Rohidas (54′) that ensured India made a stupendous start to their campaign.
With the Indian forwards showcasing top form, puncturing Indonesian defence hooter-to-hooter, the match eventually turned out to be one-sided as PR Sreejesh-led squad demonstrated different variations to score goals. The team recorded 43 per cent conversion rate as they scored 10 of the 28 field goal attempts while they converted 6 of the 11 PCs earned with one goal coming off a penalty stroke. “This was exactly the kind of start we were looking for. We were not chasing any record of winning by maximum goals but a 17-0 margin in the first match instills confidence especially for the youngsters. The idea was to use different scoring combinations which we had worked on during the National Camp and I am happy with the way the team executed,” stated Chief Coach Harendra Singh after the win.
A lethal charge in their attack right from the start saw India win two PCs in the first three minutes of the match. India’s first goal came within 46 seconds of the start with ace dragflicker Rupinder Pal Singh, making a comeback into the team after the Commonwealth Games in April, scored off a PC. He converted a penalty stroke in the 3rd minute after a deliberate foul by Indonesian defender to obstruct Harmanpreet Singh’s dragflick.
India’s third goal came off a calm and composed Dilpreet Singh who picked up a rebound after Harmanpreet Singh’s dragflick was padded away by the Indonesian goalkeeper. This 7th minute goal took India’s score to 3-0 putting the hosts under serious pressure early in the match.
India built on their strong start with impeccable team work, playing to structure and showing immense discipline in their passing and execution backed by good speed and technique.
One of the finest goals of the match came through a splendid combination work between experienced players Sardar Singh and SV Sunil in the 25th minute. A swift pass after fiercely charging into the top of the striking circle by ball carrier Sunil, saw Sardar infuse magic with his dribble past Indonesian defenders to pass it back to Sunil who simply deflected it into the goal had the Jakarta. It was hand-eye-coordination between the two stalwarts that was awe-inspiring.
The calmness and composure shown by young guns Simranjeet Singh, Mandeep Singh (both 2016 Junior World Cup winners) and Dilpreet Singh was heartening as they led the attack with brilliance. Though in few instances Indonesian defence looked good, it was barely enough to stop the Indians from scoring. As Vivek Sagar Prasad, Akashdeep Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Lalit Upadhyay and Amit Rohidas added to the scoreline, India’s defence was rarely tested with goalkeeper Krishan Pathak holding fort in India’s goalpost.
The 17-0 win is India’s best record at the Asian Games with their previous best being 12-0 win against Bangladesh in 1982.