New Delhi: On a day when their favourite cricketers let them down in the tour Down Under, Indian hockey stars turned it into a Super Sunday for the fans after winning the final of the FIH Olympic qualifier.
Goal machine Sandeep Singh netted five and completed the second hat-trick of the tournament in the process to give India a perfect evening and a ticket to 2012 London Olympics. Tactical accuracy and the lightning pace displayed by Michael Nobbs men undone a sorry France. The scoreline of 8-1 in favour of the hosts said it all.
India attacked from the word go but were deprived of space as the French fullbacks defended stoically. Their frustrations were furthered when French custodian Matthies denied a sure shot goal in the 15th minute. But two minutes thereafter India scored the decisive goal. A cross from Manpreet found a taker in the form of Birendra Lakra in the French goalmouth who fired it in swiftly with a reverse flick. The atmosphere was electric.
Vociferously cheered by the crowd, Indians went searching for another goal. Sandeep stepped in to increase the lead in the 19th minute. It was Sandeep’s 12th goal in the event, a figure he had set as his target. He scored four more and was adjudged Player of the Match.
India’s pace and their crowd’s loud cheer troubled French players but silenced them for once when Simon Martin-Brisac deflected off Sebastian in the 23rd minute. Sreejesh, who came in place of Bharat Chetri, looked stunned. India retaliated in the 26th minute, a typical Sandeep converted a short corner to up the ante for the hosts while France caved in.
After leading by three goals to one at the end of first half, the men in ‘white’ made it 4-1 in the 38th minute through Sandeep. The referee had a field day as the final saw tension flare between the two sides and a number of referrals, most of which benefitted India. India’s penalty conversion rate was near perfect on Sunday as six out of eight goals came through penalty corners. On sparse occasions they were tested, Indian defense held fort tenaciously.
Apart from Lakra, Raghunath and SV Sunil got themselves into the score sheet, which was monopolized by Sandeep.