Bhubaneswar: Sloppy defending was once more India’s bane as Sam Ward scored a brace for England to hand hosts India a heart-breaking 2-3 defeat in a hard-fought Pool B match of the Hockey World League Finals (HWLF), here Saturday.
Ward (43rd, 57th minutes) struck two field goals for England after David Goodfield gave them the lead in the 25th minute. Both of India’s goals came from penalty corner conversions by Akashdeep Singh (47th) and Rupinderpal Singh (50th).
It was a dull first quarter as both the teams failed to create any real scoring opportunities despite playing fast, aggressive hockey. The Indians were nowhere near to the level that they displayed in their first match against Australia.
While SV Sunil was guilty of holding on to the ball for too long on more than one occasion, Mandeep Singh’s ball trapping skills was found wanting inside the circle on numerous occasions.
The first real scoring chance of the match came in the 25th minute when England secured their first penalty corner but the Indians defended well. However from the resultant move, Goodfield scored as the ball went in after getting a deflection off goalkeeper Suraj Karkera’s pads.
Five minutes into the second half, Chinglensana Singh came close to levelling the scores for India but his shot from top of the box was saved by England goalkeeper Harry Gibson.
England then doubled the lead courtesy a costly defensive lapse by Harmanpreet Singh. The Indian failed to trap Luke Taylor’s long scoop and Ward lurking nearby was quick to pick up the ball and score.
India soon earned two back-to-back penalty corners but wasted both. They finally tasted success from their third set piece when Akashdeep scored from rebound after Rupinder’s initial try was saved by Gibson. Three minutes later, Rupinder finally tasted success from India’s fifth penalty corner to pump life back into the match.
However, once again India’s perennial problem – defence cost them as Ward struck three minutes from the hooter after skipper Manpreet Singh failed to clear the ball in their own half and it was pounced on by the England player to set up the winner. India will next play Germany in their final pool match, Monday.
Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra
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