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India beat France 4-3 in hockey Test

New Delhi: Ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh
continued his red-hot form and struck twice as India defeated
France 4-3 in the keenly-contested first hockey Test at the
National Institute of Sport and Expert Performance (INSEP) in
Paris.

India struck goals through Sandeep, who converted two
penalty corners in the 12th and 65th minute, Tushar Khandker
(5th) and captain Rajpal Singh (69th), while Fredric Soyez
scored a hat trick (6th, 51st and 68th) for France in the
first game of the three-match series yesterday.

High on confidence after their 2-0 series win over
Belgium last week, the Indians began aggressively and nearly
took the lead in the third minute but for Dharamvir Singh, who
fumbled inside the circle.

But two minutes later, India surged ahead when Khandker
sailed the ball into the net past French goalkeeper Mathias
Dierckems after he was set up by Rajpal.

France retaliated back a minute later and drew parity
when Soyez encashed on a defensive lapse by Sarvanjit Singh
and Danish Mujtaba to put the ball into the net past Indian
goalkeeper Bharat Chetri.

The Indians, however, were not pegged back by the French
goal as they continued to attack. The visitors missed a few
good scoring chances with Mandip Antil, Amir Khan and
Dharamvir guilty of shooting wide off the target.

India got its lead back in the 12th minute through
Sandeep, who sounded the board with a fierce drag-flick from
the team`s first penalty corner, earned after Amir was blocked
inside the circle by French defender Thibaunt Blondel.

After the change of ends, France played full court in
search of the equaliser but the Indian backline of Gurbaj
Singh, Bharat Chikara and Dhananjay Mahadik stood tall to foil
their attempts.

However, a brilliant Soyes made it 2-2 for the hosts in
the 51st minute after wrong footing Sandeep.

It was roller-coaster of a match which saw pendulum
swinging from one side to the another till the very last
minute.

With five minutes from the end, India took the lead again
after Sandeep converted his and the team`s second set piece of
the day, only to see France claw its way back into the match
through Soyez, who scored his hat-trick in the 68th minute
from a shot corner

But Rajpal broke the hearts of the home team when he
found the match winner seconds from the hooter.

PTI

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