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Indian men, women begin campaign on winning note

Indian men, women begin campaign on winning note
Highlights

After the Indian women’s hockey team registered a convincing 2-1 win over Japan in their opening match of the Olympic Test Event, the men’s hockey...

Tokyo : After the Indian women's hockey team registered a convincing 2-1 win over Japan in their opening match of the Olympic Test Event, the men's hockey team also performed in a similar vein as they defeated Malaysia 6-0 in their opening encounter of the tournament held at the Oi Hockey Stadium here on Saturday.

Forwards Mandeep Singh (33', 46') and Gursahibjit Singh (18', 56') scored a brace each for India, while Gurinder Singh (8') and SV Sunil (60') also registered their names on the score-sheet.

The Indians had the upper hand in the first quarter as the experienced SV Sunil, Mandeep Singh and Gursahibjit Singh, all created chances inside the first 10 minutes.

Mandeep looked in good rhythm as he took two shots at Malaysian goalkeeper Kumar Subramiam's goal, and forced a save on both occasions.

It was in the eighth minute that India earned themselves their first penalty corner (PC) of the match, which was converted by Gurinder to give his team the lead. The following minutes saw India dominate their fellow Asian opponents, and win as many as four PCs through some great attacking play.

First it was debutant Ashis Kumar Topno, then Nilam Sanjeep Xess and Vivek Kumar Prasad also won PCs for India. However, good work by the first rushers, and a couple of good saves by Kumar meant that India could only manage one goal in the opening quarter.

However, the start of the second quarter saw India continue from where they had left off, and score in the 18th minute through forward Gursahibjit Singh, who was found inside the striking circle by Gurjant Singh to make it 2-0 in India's favour.

World No. 12 Malaysia also forced Indian goalkeeper Suraj Karkera to make a couple of fine saves in the next few minutes, but could not pull a goal back before the half-time break.

The Indians continued to attack the Malaysians at the start of the third quarter, and it was vice-captain Mandeep Singh who registered his name on the score-sheet in the 33rd minute after Jaskaran Singh set him up well through some creative play.

However, on the other end of the pitch, Malaysia were awarded a PC just two minutes later, but could only force it wide off the post. India had some more opportunities towards the end of the third quarter as captain Harmanpreet Singh and SV Sunil saw their shots going wide off the post.

The last quarter saw India put more pressure on their opponents and score three more goals for a very convincing victory. It was in the 46th minute, that Mandeep scored his second goal of the match as India attacked Malaysia on the counter.

A Malaysian PC was well-defended by the World No. 5 team, and converted into an attack which was finished off by Singh to make it 4-0. With the majority of the attacks coming from the Indian team, the fifth and sixth goals were also around the horizon and finally came in the 56th and 60th minutes as Gursahibjit and SV Sunil scored.

For Gursahibjit's second goal, it was Harmanpreet Singh who intercepted a Malaysian pass and provided an assist to the forward to make it 5-0, while SV Sunil, who was making a comeback into the side, rounded off with a wonderful finish with just seconds remaining on the clock.

India will now face World No. 8 New Zealand on Sunday. Earlier, penalty corner specialist Gurjit Kaur scored a brace as she gave India a 1-0 lead by scoring a goal in the ninth minute of the game, but the hosts equalised it in the 16th minute as Aki Mitsuhashi scored a field goal.

However, in the 35th minute, Gurjit stepped up again to convert yet another penalty corner, which turned out to be the decisive goal in the match.

The Indians started the match well with an aggressive intent, and had a few opportunities in the opening 10 minutes.

It was in the ninth minute that India found themselves on the front-foot, and ended up winning a penalty corner. The resulting drag-flick from Gurjit was struck beautifully and beat the Japanese goalkeeper Megumi Kageyama to give India an early lead.

Both the teams -- playing with 16 players in accordance with the Olympic Games guidelines -- made swift and timely substitutions throughout the match and it was in the 16th minute that Japan's substitution worked for them as Aki finished off a great team goal to equalise the scores.

With majority of the attacks coming from the Indian team, the Japanese sat back and looked to counter attack. The teams have played each other frequently in the past couple of years, which showed on the field as they understood each other's tactics well, and it meant that the teams went into the half-time break level at 1-1.

The third quarter saw India dominate the initial few minutes earning another penalty corner in the 35th minute.

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