Rupinder Pal Singh struck twice as drag-flickers ruled the roost to help India register a fighting 3-2 win over Ireland in their opening match of the men’s hockey competition at the Olympics, here on Saturday.
Drag-flickers VR Raghunath (15th minute) and Rupinder (27th, 49th) converted three out of seven penalty corners India earned in the match to secure their first win in an opening clash at the Olympics since Sydney Games 2000. Ireland gave India a run for their money, especially in the second half, finding the net twice through Jermyn John (45th) and Conor Harte (56th) at the Olympic Hockey Centre.
Going by world rankings, India (5th) were the favourites in the Pool B encounter against Ireland (12th) and the eight-time gold medallist started on expected note by dominating the first two quarters.
From the word go, the Indians started on an attacking note and put pressure on the Ireland citadel with relentless raids. The Irish, on the other hand, were happy to fall back and defend in numbers, depending mainly on counter attacks to stun their opponents.
India’s domination can be gauged from the fact that they earned as many as six penalty corners in the first two quarters as against Ireland’s two. India’s first real scoring chance came in the last minute of the first quarter when they earned their first penalty corner but their variation didn’t work and from the resultant build-up Ramandeep Singh’s effort was saved an alert by David Harte in front of Irish goal. Then just a second from the end of the first quarter India earned three more back-to-back penalty corners, the last of which was ably converted by VR Raghunath with a powerful low flick to the right of the Irish goalkeeper.
Seven minutes into the second quarter Ireland had their first scoring chance when they secured a penalty corner and John Jermyn scored from the opportunity but the goal was disallowed as the push was not stopped properly.
Three minutes from the final hooter, Ireland earned another penalty corner to send jitters in the Indian camp but luckily for India the resultant effort went wide. The Indians, thereafter, played defensive hockey and concentrated on holding possession of the ball to secure full points from the match.
India will next play reigning Olympic champions Germany on August 8.
Earlier in the first match of Pool B, Argentina held London Olympics silver medallist Netherlands to a