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Commonwealth games: India conquer Kiwis to win a place in hockey finals

Saturday, 2 August 2014 - 10:34pm IST | Place: Glasgow | Agency: dna

In Sardar's absence, team rally from two-goal down; defend 3-2 lead to beat New Zealand and set up final with Australia

The Indians came back from a two-goal deficit to upset a higher ranked New Zealand team 3-2 on a cold and wet afternoon at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre.

And coach Terry Walsh could not contain his joy at the win and a place in the final. He was pumping his fist and egging his wards to go and close the match as the end neared.

Indians holding a 3-2 lead played the last five minutes with just 10 men and unlike in the past did not concede any late goals. That itself was a big mental hurdle they crossed on Saturday. 

India will meet Australia yet again — they lost to them in World Cup in June and here in league stage — in the final as the four-time winners beat England 4-1 in the first semifinal.

"We wanted to win for Sardar," said Ramandeep Singh, who is making a comeback into the team after missing out the World Cup due to injury. "He was there and we wanted to do it for him and I am glad he will be back for the final. He is our best player."

Kiwi Greg Couzins, who took the hit on his chest, while blocking a penalty corner, which resulted in a stroke and India's first goal in the first half, said, "I was lucky with where it got me. The heart and the mind are hurting a little bit more at the moment."

Commenting on the game, he said, "Once India got back to 2-2 you could see their belief. They got their confidence up and we could not break them down."

Sardar himself sitting on the bench with the team, said, "It was a difficult moment (watching from outside), but the boys were full of confidence. They played a superb match and they told me before the game that they would win it for me. I was touched and they kept their word. We will now go back and work for the final."

That just about summed up the game, where India's confidence was extremely high.

Walsh said, "It is always a great feeling to make the final of any event and this is a big one. Each match is important and part of a process." Speaking about Sardar Singh's absence, he said, "This is a team game. Our strategy was the same (as before). We have different people for the same roles. It is just as a player is missing due to an injury."

India came from two goals down to edge out New Zealand 3-2 in the hockey semi-finals of the 20th Commonwealth Games on Saturday and set up a repeat final of the 2010 edition with holders Australia.

Trailing 0-2 in the 18th minute, India were revived by strikes from skipper Rupinder Singh Pal, Ramandeep Singh and Akashdeep Singh, who ensured at least a silver medal for the country.

New Zealand went ahead in the second minute itself when Simon Child found the target with a reverse hit as the goal itself was left unguarded with PR Sreejesh and Kiwi Hug Inglis were involved in a collision.

The Indians appealed against the goal, but the video referral was turned down. Within a couple of minutes Inglis' shot which could have doubled the lead was saved by Sreejesh. Ramandeep Singh twice came close to scoring but the Kiwi goalkeeper Devon Manchester made two good saves.

However, it was the Kiwis, who added to the score as Nick Haig converted a penalty corner strike, even as the first shot was saved by Rupinder Singh. That put the Kiwis 2-0 up within 18 minutes.

The Indians went all out and even earned a penalty corner but were unable to score till the 27th minute. The penalty corner stroke by VR Raghunath was blocked by Dean Couzins as the ball hit him in the chest. That resulted in a stroke which Rupinder Singh converted to reduce the margin to 2-1.

Child missed an open goal in the dying minutes of the first half as the scoreline read 2-1 after 35 minutes. Into the second half, which Walsh described as 'high quality play', India constantly had the Kiwis under pressure. "There was a marked difference in the quality of play in second half. You could see it. There were questions asked (in the half time) and we re-structured our a play and it worked. We took the game to New Zealand.

Seven minutes after resumption, Ramandeep deftly deflected a superb ball from Manpreet Singh and Kiwi goalkeeper Manchester was left stranded. That made it 2-2 and the match was open.

Much as the Kiwis tried, India did not relent and kept the pressure on. The momentum paid off in the 47th minute as Akashdeep Singh made good a ball from Dharamvir and it was now 3-2 for India.

The Indian defence put up a great show and did not allow the Kiwis any space even when Manpreet was sent out after a rough tackle. India played with 10 men in last five minutes but on this day, Rupinder standing in for Sardar Singh as the captain, led his team from the front as he manned the defence extremely well.

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