Bhubaneshwar: India ended their home stint in perfect fashion taking all 6 points available from the two games against Germany in the FIH Hockey Pro League at the Kalinga Stadium here on Friday.
In the second game, India defeated Germany 3-1 with young Sukhjeet and Abhishek scoring a goal apiece from the field, to go with a Varun Kumar drag flick goal from a penalty corner, that gave India enough of a lead to see out the game without too much discomfort.
Both teams played out the game with India trying to impose their will early, while the Germans played more aggressively, harrying the Indian midfield, that was largely untroubled in the first game. India still managed to create early chances, primarily through some great work by Manpreet, where twice he worked his way into the German circle and his pass only needed a touch to open the scoring for India. But Akashdeep and Sukhjeet both couldn't get their sticks to the crosses and the teams went into the quarter break tied at 0-0.
India came out stronger in the 2nd quarter, much as they did last evening after a goalless first fifteen. They threatened to open the scoring through Moirangthem who found acres of space on the right side of the circle after some good switch play by India caught Germany out, but his cross deflected out off a German stick before it could threaten the German keeper.
India finally made the pressure pay though, as a long corner saw some great work by a combination of Hardik, Manpreet and Nilakanta. Nilakanta then sent a fast pass towards the goal and Sukhjit smartly got ahead of Danneberg to deflect the ball in. Germany started to get on the front foot towards the end of the first half, but they could only muster one shot on target, that did not trouble Krishan Pathak too much, and he saved to maintain India's lead heading into the second half.
Graham Reid once again spoke at half-time about missed opportunities and wanted his team to convert more of the chances they were creating, and his team didn't let him down. 10 minutes into the 3rd quarter Lalit showed great skill to run into the German circle and baited the German defence into fouling him, winning India their first penalty corner of the game.
It was Varun Kumar who took on the corner instead of Harmanpreet, and he showcased the depth India has in that department by blasting a low flick to the left bottom corner of the goal, giving India the 2-goal cushion they desperately desired.
Germany were not quick to give-in though, and a great run into the Indian circle from the left baseline by Smith, forced Sreejesh to come charging out and Smith reversed the ball to Boeckel who had an empty goal to slot the ball into, right at the end of the 3rd quarter, setting up a wonderful finish to the game.
India retreated a bit in the 4th quarter allowing Germany to commit numbers into attack. The strategy worked wonders for them as it opened up space behind the tight German mid-field and the dangerous Indian counter attacks started catching the German defenders out.
India finally managed to convert one of their counter attacks into a goal as a long pass by Harmanpreet found the lively Abhishek at the top of the German circle, and his quick reverse hit was strong and perfectly placed into the corner of the German goal, leaving the otherwise excellent keeper Danneberg with no chance of stopping it.
India finished off the last 5 minutes of the game with minimum fuss, except for one penalty corner that was won by the tireless German captain Zwicker. Krishan Pathak pulled off a stunning save on the resulting flick to keep India's two goal lead intact and allowed them to play the final 2 minutes out with relative ease.
The win gives India a 10-point lead at the top of the table, but as coach Reid pointed out before the game, India have played more matches than any other team, so the points buffer at the top is something they wanted to increase with this game and have successfully managed it with 6 points out of 6 taken against Germany.
Player of the match Nilakanta Sharma noted the possible improvements his team could make saying, "It's good to win both games but I think our finishing could be better and we have a long break before our next match, so we will work on it and do better in our next game."
German captain Martin Zwicker once again praised his young team and said, "We were right there till the end. A 2-goal deficit was a bit much, but for the most part of the match we were down by only one goal, and to do that with a young team like this is great. We will take a lot of positives from these two matches. We wanted some points from these games, which we haven't succeeded in doing. But an improved second game is a good sign for sure."
FIH Hockey Pro League action from the 2021/22 season concludes in India, and will now move to Argentina for the next set of matches in both women's and men's season of the Pro League.