India, Britain draw in Azlan Shah tie

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Ipoh (Malaysia), April 29 (IANS) India were held to a 2-2 draw by Britain in the opening match of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament here on Saturday.

Strikers Akashdeep Singh (19th minute) and Mandeep Singh (47th minute) scored for India while Tom Garson (25th minute) and Alan Forsyth (53rd minute) sounded the boards for Britain.

Manpreet Singh Sr was one of the outstanding players for India, setting up both Indian goals.

The teams were locked 1-1 at half-time.

Last year’s runners-up India will take on New Zealand in their next match on April 30.

The game began with an interesting first quarter as both teams were on par with each other with some impeccable defensive skills giving little room to both sets of forwards.

The only shot on goal during the opening quarter came in the ninth minute when Britain’s Sam Ward struck a reverse hit but failed to beat Indian goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh.

While Britain’s defence restricted India to just three entries into the penalty circle, their forwards managed four.

India were quick to get off the blocks in the second quarter by winning their first penalty corner in the 19th minute, thanks to some good work by Pardeep Mor.

The Indians almost botched up the set piece thanks to a miss-trap by Sumit. But off the resultant goal mouth melee, Akashdeep fired in a rebound to give India the lead.

Despite the setback, Britain continued to attack and Christopher Griffiths played a crucial role in earning the equaliser when he came up with some skillful stick work to beat several Indian defenders and find Tom Carson inside the penalty circle.

Carson produced a superb finish to fire the ball in at the far post. There was little India skipper Sreejesh could do to deny the goal.

Both teams continued to play an attacking game after the restart but some good work by the defenders on both ends of the field ensured that no goals were scored in the third quarter.

India came close to earning their second penalty corner in the early minutes of the third quarter but a well thought-through video referral by Britain denied them the opportunity.

India continued to play a tactical game, experimenting with different formations in their attempt to find an opening.

With little less than three minutes to go for the third break, S.V. Sunil produced some electrifying pace to carry on possession on a counter-attack but couldn’t muster a goal after charging into the striking circle.

India regained the upper hand in the early stages of the final quarter when Manpreet Singh displayed some exceptional skills to beat several Britain defenders to find Sunil in the penalty circle.

Sunil’s accurate assist found Mandeep who tapped in at the near post.

However, Britain continued to attack and equalised for the second time in the match when Forsyth found the back of the net to steal a point for his team.

It was high drama in the striking circle with a bit of a scramble to find space and finally Mark Gleghorne came up with the decisive final pass and Forsyth made little mistake in converting it to ensure a nerve-wracking finish.

–IANS

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