Potchefstroom (South Africa): India played clinical hockey and capitalised on their chances after a slow start to open their FIH Pro League 2022 campaign with a thumping 5-0 win against France here on Tuesday.
India scored three goals in eight minutes in the second quarter and then slammed two more in the third quarter before taking the foot off the pedal in the fourth period in the match played at the University of Northwest here.
“No Bollywood”, was the message from coach Graham Reid — which means ‘play simple hockey with no flashy and fancy stuff’ — before the start of the match and the Indian players followed his instructions to the T as they romped to a superb victory.
Harmanpreet Singh (21st min), Varun Kumar (24th min), Shamsher Singh (28th min), Mandeep Singh (32nd min) and Akashdeep Singh (41st min) scored for India as they capitalised on the huge gulf between the two teams — India is ranked third in the world while France is 13th — to score a big win and start their campaign in South Africa on a winning note.
India got into the scoring mood after a tight first half in which they were a bit sloppy and could produce only three chances — including two penalty corners.
Harmanpreet Singh opened their account in the 21st minute, scoring off India’s third penalty corner with a low and hard flick into the bottom right corner. This was Harman’s 89th goal and the first of this year.
Three minutes later Varun Kumar made it 2-0 off India’s fourth penalty corner, a replica of Harmanpreet’s drag-flick but to the left side of the French goalkeeper.
France earned their first penalty corner in the 27th minute but Amit Rohidas made a superb run to pluck the ball off a French player’s stick and set up a counter-attack that resulted in India scoring their third goal. Off the superb counter, the ball came to young forward Abhishek, who moved it to Shamsher Singh, who was left unmarked inside the shooting circle as India led 3-0 at half-time.
The goal-scoring continued for India and they made it 4-0 within two minutes of the restart when off another swift and well-executed attack, skipper Manpreet set up striker Mandeep inside the D, who made no mistake in beating the French goalkeeper.
It was 5-0 in the 41st minute as forward Akashdeep Singh celebrated his 200th cap for India with a fine goal as the Indians capitalised on some poor defending by France.
France came out with more purpose in the fourth quarter and created some opportunities including two back-to-back penalty corners but the Indian defence thwarted them easily.
India dominated possession and made 26 circle entries and took nine shots at the goal, scoring goals. These were good stats considering the Indians were playing their first match and were expected to be a bit rusty.