Antwerp (Belgium), Sep 28 (IANS) The Indian men’s hockey team produced a masterful performance to beat World No. 8 Spain 6-1 in their second match of the Tour of Belgium in Antwerp on Saturday.
A brace by Harmanpreet Singh (28′, 32′) along with goals from Manpreet Singh (24′), Nilakanta Sharma (39′), Mandeep Singh (56′) and Rupinderpal Singh (59′) capped off a brilliant performance by India, ranked fifth in the world.
India started the match aggressively and were almost in the ascendancy immediately by creating problems for the Spanish defence with a host of circle penetrations.
However, despite the possession, India found it tough to win a penalty corner or create clear opportunities on goal in the first quarter. It was in fact Spain who won the first penalty corner towards the end of the first quarter, forcing India goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh into a fine, reflex save to keep the scores level at the quarter break.
India started making more inroads towards the Spanish goal in the second quarter, and very soon were forcing Quico Cortes into pulling smart saves in Spain’s goal.
Finally in the 24th minute, captain Manpreet Singh broke the deadlock as he slotted home to give India the lead. Within four minutes, the lead was doubled as Harmanpreet scored India’s second goal from a penalty corner. The drag-flicker executed a perfect drag flick to take India two goals clear.
However, it was Spain’s turn to open their account as they pulled a goal back right before half-time, which meant the teams went into break with India leading 2-1.
Almost from the start in the third quarter, India were keen to wrap up the game with their attacking play stifling Spain and pushing them deeper into their own half.
Harmanpreet was on target again as he scored his second goal of the game with another penalty corner conversion in the 32nd minute to restore the two-goal cushion.
Midfielder Nilakanta Sharma then swelled the lead with a superb field goal in the 39th minute, giving India a 4-1 lead at the end of the third quarter.
India kept control of the game in the final quarter and showed their quality as they did not allow Spain any chance to mount a comeback. Throughout the period, the World No. 5 side kept up their attacking play and consistently pressured the Spanish defence.
In the 56th minute, Mandeep Singh scored the team’s fifth goal before Rupinderpal Singh converted a penalty corner in the 59th minute to register his name on the scoresheet in his comeback match to wrap up a brilliant performance.
The third match of the tour will see India take on Spain on September 29 at 5.30 p.m. (IST).