Gold Coast, April 10 (IANS) It was a field day for Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams as they defeated Malaysia 2-1 and South Africa 1-0 respectively to enter the semi-finals at the 21st Commonwealth Games (CWG) here on Tuesday.
While the men’s team rode on a couple of penalty corner conversations from Harmanpreet Singh (3rd, 44th minutes) to record their second consecutive win, the eves saw Rani Rampal scoring the winner in the 47th-minute to remain on top of Pool A with nine points.
The men’s team are also top of Pool B with seven points from three matches.
India will play their last pool match against second placed England on Wednesday. With the top two teams advancing to the last four stage, India are assured of a place in the semi-finals as they will finish second in the pool in case of a loss.
“We are happy to be on the winning side. I think the team has improved since our first match against Pakistan. Though there are still certain areas we must get better with, this win will give the team a good momentum for the next match,” India’s chief coach Sjoerd Marijne said after the match.
“It’s not about the opponents but our own game. I am yet to see this team come up with a 7/10 performance in this tournament. If each of them manage to play their role to perfection, I am confident of a good show against England,” he added.
India got off to an ideal start with forward Mandeep Singh winning the first penalty corner of the match in the second minute.
Harmanpreet came up with a perfect dragflick, improvising on the injection and keeping the ball low to his right to find the gap and fetch India an early lead.
Though Malaysia too won a penalty in the fifth minute, Razie Rahim’s flick was off the mark.
Buoyed by the lead, the Indians dominated possession and kept the Malaysian defenders on their toes with a constant stream of attacks.
Malaysia found the equaliser immediately after the start of the second quarter as a fast move down the right saw Faisal beat the Indian defence with an excellent run before receiving a defence splitting pass which found him in a one to one situation with India goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh.
Faisal did well to control the ball before beating Sreejesh with a superb finish from a tight angle.
India upped their attack in the third quarter, pushing for the elusive lead. Dilpreet Singh had a shot on goal but was saved by the Malaysian defence.
Harmanpreet found the decisive goal in the closing stages of the third quarter when he converted a penalty corner with an excellent placing into the top left corner that beat the Malaysian custodian with its power and precision.
In the fourth quarter, S.V. Sunil earned India a penalty corner in the 57th minute. But an alert Malaysian goalkeeper came up with a brilliant save to keep Harmanpreet Singh from completing his hat-trick.
Coming to the eves, who came into the match on the back of consecutive wins over England and Malaysia, got off to a breezy start but the South Africans matched them with pace and precision.
Though the overall technical quality was absent from both the teams as they engaged in a scrappy encounter.
India got couple of penalty corners but Gurjit Kaur and Rampal couldn’t make them count in the first two quarters.
At the beginning of the third quarter, South Africa began to ask questions but the Indian defence reacted strongly.
India employed a strategy of waiting for the South African defence to push up and then hit them on the counter.
India came close to breaking the deadlock when drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur hit the cross-bar in the 38th minute.
It was a warning for a desperate South Africa, who pushed hard. Moments later. Navjot Kaur slid wide of the left post following a cross from Monika.
Nearly nine minutes later, India got the 1-0 lead. Navneet Kaur led the counter-attack, before passing it onto the Vandana Katariya who was positioned at the top of the circle.
Vandana passed the ball to Rampal, who made a beautiful turn after receiving the ball, holding off goalkeeper and a defender, to roll the ball in for the 1-0 lead.