FIH Hockey Pro League: India open campaign thrashing France 5-0
New Delhi, February 9, 2022
Playing an all-out game, India opened their campaign with an emphatic 5-0 win over France in the FIH Hockey Pro League at Potchefstroom, South Africa on Tuesday.
For the winners who led 3-0 at half-time, the goal scorers were Harmanpreet Singh (21'), Varun Kumar (24'), Shamsher Singh (28'), Mandeep Singh (32') and Akashdeep Singh (41').
India opened the game on an attacking mode and put pressure on the rival defence in the initial minutes when Harmanpreet's pass from the middle was intercepted by Nilakanta but his flick from the centre of the circle went over.
Minutes later, India again got yet another chance which was foiled by the French defence. However, the Men in Blue kept attacking and earned back-to-back penalty corners after nearly 10 minutes but efforts by debutant Jugraj were foiled by goalkeeper Arthur Thieffry.
The Indian forward line made a few more dangerous penetrating runs inside the opposition's circle and their efforts paid off as they won the third penalty corner in the 21st minute of the match, which was converted by Harmanpreet.
Three minutes later, India went up 2-0. This time the goal was scored by Varun who converted a penalty corner.
France made a counter move and earned a penalty corner in the 28th, but they failed to breach the defence and a quick counterattack led by Nilakanta and Shamsher put India in the driver's seat. Nilakanta's pass to the downfield found Shamsher in the right spot, who calmly nicked the ball into the back of the nets, making it 3-0.
There was no let up in Indian pressure in the second half also with the forwards enjoying possession and making moves in France's half.
Two minutes into this session, Mandeep made it 4-0 for the winners. Desperately looking for a goal, France regrouped and made some good counter attacks.
They had slightly better possession in the latter stages of the third quarter. However, a mistake from the French captain inside the circle gave Akashdeep a golden opportunity to mark his 200th appearance with a well-deserved goal. The veteran forward added India's 5th goal to the tally in the 41st minute.
France started the final quarter aggressively and earned themselves back-to-back penalty corners in the initial minutes but goalkeeper Krishan Pathak stood tall to deny the rivals their first goal.
The last stage of the match saw some end-to-end action, with India slowing down the proceedings to ensure a comprehensive 5-0 win.