A double treat for India, as Indian men’s hockey team followed the suit of their women counterpart and earns their berth at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as they defeat Russia 7-1 in the second leg of the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers on Saturday. The men’s team ended both the legs of proceedings with an aggregate of 11-3. The first leg of the encounter went in India’s favour by 4-2.
The proceedings started with a jerk for India as Russia opened the scoreline within 20 seconds of pushback with Alexey Sobolevskiy finding the early lead for the visitors. The Indian regained the possession in the first quarter however their barrage of attacks was well intercepted by the Russian defence.
The Indian side started the second quarter with a positive note as the veteran forward Lalit Upadhyay, who was playing his 100th international match for India, managed to find the equaliser at the 17th minute from a fluent pass by the Hardik Singh, which took the goal aggregate to 5-3. In the 23rd minute, India won their second PC, and Akashdeep fired a shot past the goalkeeper from a rebound which further extended the goal lead to 2-1. Akashdeep was unstoppable as he made solo run from the midfield and struck a thunderous shot past the goalkeeper and completed his brace in the 29th minute to take the lead to 3-1 before the proceedings reached the half-time mark.
India created a flurry of chances in the third quarter, however, failed to convert despite having a major share of the possession.
India doted their dominance further as Nilakanta Sharma found the ball in the right flank and produced a stunning shot similar to Akashdeep’s second, which bamboozled the Russian goalkeeper as he couldn’t keep it at bay. A minute later, India won another PC and this time India’s most experienced drag-flick specialist Rupinder Pal Singh made no mistake to slam a powerful shot into the nets, taking the lead to 5-1 and aggregate to 9-3. The Russian midfield showed no signs of interceptions in the final quarter as they had somewhat accepted the turn of events. India won another PC in the 59th minute and Rupinder struck again to seal the deal for India. However, the goal shower didn’t stop as Amit Rohidas scored from a PC moments before fulltime.
The Indian men’s hockey team defeated Russia 4-2 in the first leg of their Olympic qualifiers match at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar on Friday. With the win, the Men in Blues were one step away from sealing their berth in 2020 Tokyo Games. Three breathtaking saves by Russian goalkeeper Marat Gafarov in the waning moments of the match restricted India of a big win. Gafarov also saved a few penalty corners awarded to the hosts. The men’s game, though not a see-saw battle, left a lot of questions to answer. The midfield fluidity was missing, the short-corner battery failed miserably.
Earlier in the evening the Indian women’s hockey team lost to USA 1-4 in the second leg of the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers yet managed to seal the berth to the Olympics as they finished both the legs with an aggregate of 6-5 in their favour. India’s decisive goal came from skipper Rani Rampal who struck the ball and found the net in the final quarter to give India an edge.