Bhubaneswar: A belligerent India put up a clinical performance to register a thumping 5-0 win over lower-ranked South Africa to start their Men’s Hockey World Cup-2018 campaign in style at the refurbished Kalinga Stadium here Wednesday.
India rode on a brace by Simranjeet Singh and a goal each by Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh and Lalit Upadhyay to torment the visitors.
The hosts started with a good pace by maneuvering beautiful short passes. In the process they started building huge pressure on the Proteas. They came very close to score goals in the initial moments, but the opposition defenders were alert enough to avert any danger. However they got their first penalty corner in the ninth minute. Mandeep deflected a return from the custodian’s hand to open the goal account for Men in Blue in this edition.
Akashdeep doubled the lead with a thunderous strike from the right flank in the 12th minute for the Men in Blue much to the delight of the 15,000 capacity crowd. The first quarter completely belonged to the hosts with the capital letter ‘I’ written all over it.
India continued to keep the pressure on the South Africans and they were soon rewarded with another penalty corner in the 19th minute, but couldn’t convert it with the opposition goal-keeper denied with a wonderful save.
The visitors showed signs of improvement towards the end of the second quarter as they charged towards India’s citadel few times. But a brilliant strike by them was foiled by Indian custodian PR Sreejesh in the 24th minute. In spite of some close moments, the second quarter remained goalless and India maintained a 2-0 lead.
Buoyed by huge cheers from the energetic crowd the hosts became more aggressive after the change of ends. They got another PC in the 33rd minute, but got a defensive lapse to seal the supply line. However the visitors got an opportunistic first penalty corner in the 42nd minute, but Indian defenders thwarted it with ease.
Indians were prompt enough to retaliate. It was the turn of Simranjeet to deflect cheekily from the close of the post to strike the third goal in the 43rd minute. Lalit made it 4-0 for the Indians through a fierce hit two minutes later.
India went on with their killing instinct in the fourth quarter to get a penalty corner and Simranjeet dully converted it in the 46th minute to complete a high-five in their campaign opener. South Africa tried to make amends towards the end, but it was too little too late.