Champions Trophy: India start campaign in style, defeat England 3-1

Melbourne: India made a bright start to their campaign at the Champions Trophy hockey tournament with a come-from-behind 3-1 win over England in Pool A at the State Hockey Centre here on Saturday.

The new-look Indian team clinched a morale-boosting win through goals from opportunistic field goals from Danish Mujtaba (22nd minute) and Yuvraj Walmiki (38th) before Gurwinder Singh Chandi scored in a set-piece penalty corner (66th minute).

Earlier, the India defence was breached by a drag flick from Richard Smith on England`s maiden penalty corner in the 14th minute.

Playing the first major international event after their disastrous last-place finish in the London Olympics, India have come to the elite eight-nation Champions Trophy with a new look team after dropping several ageing stars.

England have brought a young, experimental team here after several regular players took a break following the Olympics, where Great Britain finished fourth.

Many seasoned players in the England line-up went back to their full-time jobs or universities and left the places open for young players to be inducted for this tournament.

India will take on New Zealand tomorrow in their second outing in Pool A, which also features Olympic gold medallists Germany. Germany edged past New Zealand 3-2 in the other Pool A match on Saturday.

Giving a good display of competitive hockey, the young Indian outfit had to fight back after conceding the early lead when Smith's rising drag-flick went high into the goal.

India forced their first penalty corner four minutes later, but V R Raghunath's low drag flick was blocked on the goal-line by a defender.

England could have gone two up in the 21st minute when an opportunistic deflection by David Condon on a long through ball went across the goalmouth.

Mujtaba put India back on par by deflecting a long diagonal ball into the goal after lunging forward to beat his marker and also managed to put the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper.

India conceded a soft penalty corner in the 26th minute when an unmarked Raghunath carried the ball in trying to stop a long-range shot.

Walmiki made the most of a diagonal ball from Sunil as he managed to get an opportunistic touch past goalkeeper George Pinner three minutes into the second session.

India came close to scoring another field goal in the 44th minute when three strikers moved into the circle, where goalkeeper George Pinner did not have any company, but he came out to narrow the angle and Chandi's flick was too feeble to cause any trouble.

India's second penalty corner also failed to make an impression on the rival defence and the English strikers had a period of domination midway in the successive minutes.

Goalkeeper T.R. Potunuri, who got to play in the absence of first-choice custodian P.R. Sreejesh, managed to block the feeble pushes into his pads.

Sreejesh got injured during the nine-a-side International Super Series in Perth last week and has been replaced in the squad by another goalkeeper, Sushant Tirkey who has been flown in as a replacement.

Midway through the second half, Sunil was carried off on the stretcher due to cramps, but India continued to press the English defence were rewarded with their third and final penalty corner which produced Chandi?s goal.

Chandi dived forward to deflect Raghunath?s low drag-flick into the English goal to round off the scoring four minutes from the hooter.

India had another opportunity to increase the margin in the penultimate minute when captain Sardar Singh gave unmarked Walmiki a fine pass, but Walmiki's slow speed allowed the defenders to catch up.


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