Potchefstroom (South Africa): Drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh scored four goals as India came back from a goal down to thrash South Africa 10-2 in a FIH Hockey Pro League match here on Sunday. Shocked 5-2 by France on Saturday, Olympic bronze medallists India recover well in time to avoid another disaster and went on to end their South Africa tour with a superb win.
Harmanpreet Singh, the FIH Pro League Player of the Year for 2021, scored in the 36th minute off a penalty corner, converted a penalty stroke in the 52nd minute, completed scored his third in the 56th minute off another short corner and rounded off his tally with his fourth goal seconds before the long hooter.
Shilanand Lakra scored a brace (27th & 48th min) after Surinder Kumar (15th min) had cancelled Daniel Bell’s 12th-minute strike for South Africa in the first quarter. Mandeep Singh (28th), Sumit (45th) and Shamsher Singh (56th min) were the other scorers for India as the World No. 3 won 10-2, repeating the score they achieved against South Africa in their first match on February 9.
Besides Bell, Connor Beauchamp (53rd min) scored a goal for South Africa. They bagged six penalty corners and scored off two of them.
Earlier, India looked in a spot of bother in the first quarter as South Africa came up with improved performance and put up a good defence in the first 15 minutes of the match.
India enjoyed possession and created some chances but were thwarted by the South Africa defence.
And when South Africa’s Daniel Bell converted their first penalty corner in the 12th minute of the match to give the hosts a 1-0 lead, Indian hockey fans must have braced themselves up for a repeat of Saturday’s 5-2 defeat against France for Graham Ried’s men.
But there was no nightmare end on a second successive day for India on Pitch 1 at the University of North West as Manpreet Singh’s team levelled the score seconds before the end of the first quarter. South Africa, a man down with Matthew De Sousa out with a green card, gave Surinder Kumar too much time and space off a free hit and the defender rifled the ball into the cage and past the goalkeeper to make it 1-1.
The course of the match changed three minutes before the half-time when India scored twice within three minutes to surge ahead 3-1.
The Olympic bronze medallists struck two more goals — one by Harmanpreet and another by Sumit — in the third quarter to extend their lead to 5-1.
India then went on a goal-scoring spree in the fourth quarter, slamming home five goals between 48th and 60th minutes with Harmanpreet Singh striking three of them.
The Indians, who had messed up 12 penalty corners in the defeat against France on Saturday, were better Sunday as they converted three of the six short corners they earned.