New Delhi: Indian men’s hockey team began their Hockey Olympic qualifiers with a 4-2 win over Russia in the first leg at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Friday. The second leg of the tie will be played on Saturday.
Mandeep Singh scored twice while Harmanpreet Singh and SV Sunil found a goal each as India foot one foot into the 2020 Tokyo Games. India, who are ranked fifth in the world, are taking on world No.22 Russia for a place in the next year’s Summer Olympic Games.
The winners will be determined as follows: teams will be ranked according to the number of points each has accumulated in both matches (for each match, 3 points are awarded to the winner, 1 point to each team in the event of a draw and 0 points to the loser). If there is equality among the two teams, then the teams will be ranked according to their respective goal difference. If equality remains, a shoot-out competition will be played to establish the winner. Therefore, the objective of both the teams will be to secure direct qualification for the Tokyo 2020 hockey tournaments – which will be staged in Japan’s capital city from 25 July to 7 August next year and involve 12 Men’s and 12 Women’s teams.
FT: 🇮🇳 4-2 🇷🇺Kudos to our #MenInBlue for claiming their victory over Russia in the first-leg of the ongoing @FIH_Hockey Olympic Qualifiers Odisha. 👏 #IndiaKaGame #INDvRUS #RoadToTokyo #Tokyo2020 #KalingaKalling #GiftOfHockey pic.twitter.com/IvY3jfafY4
India got off to a brilliant start in the match with Harmanpreet Singh scoring India’s first as early as the sixth minute. India were awarded a penalty stroke and Harmanpreet made no mistake in giving India the lead.
However, Russia grew into the match and even forced Sreejesh to make a save in the eighth minute. Russia put up a good show in the first quarter but their failure to convert the chances kept them trailing.
Just two minutes into the second quarter, Russia made their way back into the match Kuraev equalised for the visitors. In the 21st minute, Russia got a brilliant chance to take the lead when they were allowed acres of space by India but failed to make it count.
They were punished for the mistake soon as Mandeep Singh restored India’s lead in the 24th minute. Mandeep collected the ball in the centre and beat the opposition goalkeeper with a clean finish.
The third quarter of the match saw a bit of a lull with both teams unable to make too many inroads even through India were penetrative while Russia had a couple of chances too.
In the 48th minute, SV Sunil increased India’s advantage as he tapped in after some excellent work by Nilakanta on the wings to get India in an advantageous position.
Just four minutes later, Mandeep scored his second of the evening with a cool finish following some slick passing by Sunil.
In the 60th minute, India hit the post and missed a chance to increase their advantage further and Russia got another back soon to make it 4-2.
Right before the final whistle, Semen Matkovskiy sent in the ball past Sreejesh with a penalty corner drag-flick.
Earlier in the day, Indian women’s hockey team thrashed USA 5-1 in the first leg of the Olympic qualifiers.
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