Olympics: Young forwards come good as India overpower Great Britain 3-1 to book semi-final berth
New Delhi, August 1, 2021
Hardik Singh led the charge as India's new-look forward line came good when the team needed them most as the former world champions overpowered Great Britain 3-1 on Sunday to set up a semi-final clash with Belgium in the Olympic Games at the Oi Hockey Stadium.
India, thus, took a step closer to end the 41-year medal drought, reserving the last fourth berth with the help of goals from Dilpreet Singh ( 7'), Gurjant Singh (16' ) Hardik Singh (57'). Samuel Ward (45') was Great Britain's lone goalscorer.
Interestingly, this was the first match in this Olympics in which India failed to get a single penalty corner while Great Britain earned eight. Even in the match against Australia, which the Manpreet Singh-led lost 1-7, they had forced five penalty corners.
India played by the script and started with aggression and structured attack. Nilakanta Sharma and Mandeep Singh created the first opportunity for them but the rival defenders foiled that move.
In the 7th minute, India struck a brilliant field goal set up perfectly by Simranjeet Singh, which was intercepted by Dilpreet Singh who pushed the ball between goalkeeper Ollie Payne's legs (1-0).
Within the first minute of the second quarter, India made it 2-0 when Gurjant received the ball inside the circle, completed a quick turn into position and sent the ball home.
Great Britain, however, showed composure despite the early setback and maintained a good structure to create potential forays into the striking circle. Though they came close to converting a goal in the 28th minute with good teamwork by Zachary Wallace and James Gall, the effort did not result in a goal.
Ten minutes into the third quarter, Great Britain worked on a comeback with better ball possession and improvised attack. But the defence remained calm to foil all the attacks.
Britain reduced the margin in the re-take of a penalty corner in the 45th minute. A surprise variation master-minded by Philip Roper and executed accurately by Samuel Ward helped beat the Indian defenders (1-2) .
The fourth quarter began with Great Britain earning another PC. They worked a similar variation that earned them the first goal but this time, goalkeeper Sreejesh brought off a fine save.
Britain continued putting pressure with a superior display in attack and ball possession. However Sreejesh was excellent yet again at the post as he made a couple of brilliant saves.
The last six and half minutes of the match were tense when Manpreet Singh was awarded a yellow card when he made a diving tackle to halt the British attack.
The infringement saw Great Britain being awarded another PC. But the drag flick was well defended by Sreejesh
The dying moments were nail-biting but a brilliant display of skill and stick work by first-time Olympian Hardik Singh saw India secure a 3-1 lead.
He was fantastic with his speedy dribble to beat the British defenders only to drive into the circle and take a brilliant shot on goal, although the shot bounced off Payne's pads, Hardik was quick to receive the rebound and make yet another attempt and this time it sounded the board past Payne in the 57th minute.
Australia will take on Germany in the other semi-final.
Victory over Belgium will put India in the final for the first time since the 1980 Moscow Olympics when they beat Spain to win their eighth and last gold medal in Olympics hockey.
A defeat against Belgium will keep them in the hunt for the bronze medal.
It is the first time that India have reached the semi-final of Olympic hockey competition since 1972 when they won a bronze in Munich. There were no semi-finals played in Moscow, with the top two teams in the preliminary league making it to the gold-medal match while the team that finished third and fourth contested for bronze.