Defending Champions the Indian Men’s Hockey Team began their title defence at the 5th Men’s Hero Asian Champions Trophy 2018 with a convincing 11-0 victory in their first round-robin match here on Thursday. India’s forwards were in prime form in their opening match as striker Dilpreet Singh struck a hat-trick of goals, scoring in the 41st, 55th and 57th minutes while Lalit Upadhyay (17′), Harmanpreet Singh (22′), Nilakanta Sharma (23′), Mandeep Singh (30′), Gurjant Singh (37′), Akashdeep Singh (48′), Varun Kumar (49′) and Chinglensana Singh Kangujam (53′) were all on target which ensured a stupendous start for the World No. 5 team.
Hosts Oman had earlier started the match well as they tried to attack the Indian team from push-back, but could not find the finish they were expecting as India avoided going behind early. The following minutes saw India take control of the match and create opportunities to put the pressure on the hosts. Strikers Akashdeep Singh, Dilpreet Singh and Mandeep Singh had chances but could not convert as the Oman defence held on. More resolute defending from the home team in the closing few minutes of the first quarter meant that the Indians failed to score the opening goal even after forcing eight circle entries and taking four shots.
The second quarter was the turning point for the Indian team as they started with an aggressive approach, attacking in the opening minute from the left flank through debutant Hardik Singh, whose pass across goal was too quick to find his teammates. But it was in the 17th minute that India managed to break the deadlock as Captain Manpreet Singh stole the ball in the center of Oman’s area and passed it on the right to Forward Lalit Upadhyay, who found himself in space inside the circle, and produced a fierce shot, beating Oman’s Goalkeeper Fahad Al Noufali on his near post to give India a 1-0 lead. India seemed to have found a nice rhythm in the next few minutes as they kept penetrating Oman’s circle, playing fast balls into the circle.
The world No. 5 team’s efforts were rewarded again in the 22nd minute as they scored through their first Penalty Corner, with ace drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh beating the rushers and drilling the ball towards the left of Oman’s Goalkeeper to put India 2-0 up. India made the most of their dominant phase in the match as they scored their third goal in the following minute as Chinglensana Singh Kangujam’s shot fell into Nilakanta Sharma’s path, who stroked it into the back of the net to make it 3-0. India’s fourth goal was scored by striker Mandeep Singh who was found inside the circle by fellow striker Akashdeep Singh, and the Indian No. 11 did not hesitate in putting the ball past Al Noufali from in-front of goal to take his team into the half-time break with a 4-0 lead.
A lethal charge in attack in the third quarter saw India extend their lead to 5-0 as comeback man Gurjant Singh deflected Surender Kumar’s fiercely struck cross into the back of the net in the 37th minute. It was always going to be a tough match for the home team given their World No. 33 ranking as India continued to pile misery on their opponents. A decision review in the 41st minute saw India earn their third Penalty Corner of the match. The resulting execution, struck by Harmanpreet Singh, was padded into the path of India’s Dilpreet Singh by the Oman Goalkeeper and the Indian forward’s reflex reaction saw him score off a sublime finish to give India a six-goal advantage.
India’s goal tally increased in the fourth quarter as Akashdeep Singh and Varun Kumar were rewarded on the back of some marvellous team-play as the duo struck a goal each in the 48th and the 49th minutes respectively to put India 8-0 ahead with a little over 10 minutes remaining on the clock. India’s Harmanpreet Singh had a chance to score his second goal of the match through a Penalty Corner in the 52nd minute but his vicious strike struck the crossbar and resulted in Oman breaking on the counter, but to India’s relief the final pass was overplayed. India’s Vice-Captain Chinglensana Singh Kangujam also registered his name on the score-sheet as he cleverly deflected Harmanpreet Singh’s next drag-flick into the back of the net and give India a nine-goal advantage. Striker Dilpreet Singh showcased calmness in front of goal as he struck twice in three minutes to complete his hat-trick of goals, scoring in the 55th and 57th minutes and wrapping up a convincing 11-0 victory for the Indian team.