India men hockey team has continued its winning march at the Tokyo Olympics as they defeated Great Britain 3-1 in the quarterfinals to qualify for the semifinals for the first time in four decades. Goals from Dilpreet Singh, Gurjan Singh and Hardik Singh spread across the four quarters helped the eight-time Olympic champions to progress to the last-four stage.
Check out: Tokyo Olympics Highlights, Day 8
India started aggressively and took a 1-0 lead as early as seventh minute after the pushback through a field goal from Dilpreet. Another field goal, this time from Gurjant, helped them double their lead but Britain pulled one back through Samuel Ward in the third quarter to make it 2-1.
With three minutes remaining and the contest still open with India leading by a solitary goal, Hardik sealed the fate in his team’s favour with another field goal.
The Indians got their footing into the match as time went by and took the lead in the seventh minute through Dilpreet, who pushed the ball in past Great Britain goalkeeper after being fed by Simranjeet Singh. It was Simranjeet who created the chance after he stole the ball from a defender just outside the circle.
Two minutes from the first quarter, India custodian P R Sreejesh made fine reflex saves to deny Great Britain. The Indians didn’t let their rivals settle down and doubled their lead seconds into the second quarter through Gurjant.
It was Hardik who created the opportunity by intercepting a pass just outside the Great Britain ’D’ and then sent the ball to an unmarked Gurjant, who kept a calm head to put the ball into the net through the legs of opposition goalkeeper Oliver Payne. In the 35th minute, Gurjant had another chance to extend the lead but his reverse hit from a tight angle was easily saved by Payne.
Thereafter, it was all Great Britain as they pressed numbers in front in search of goals. Leading by two goals, the Indians dropped back and tried to defend the lead but the move proved costly as minutes from the end of the third quarter Great Britain secured four back-to-back penalty corners the last of which was put into the back of the net by Ward.
With 15 more minutes remaining and just a goal behind, Great Britain went on the offensive in the final quarter, throwing numbers into their attacks as the Indians struggled to control the onslaught. Great Britain succeeded in their efforts as they earned three more penalty corners in the match but the redoubtable Sreejesh rose to the occasion and pulled off saves after saves to keep his side ahead.
India extended their lead against the run of play in the 57th minute when Hardik scored with a rebound from a counter-attack after his initial shot was saved by Great Britain goalkeeper Payne.
India started their campaign on a winning note thanks to a hard-fought 3-2 win over New Zealand in their Pool A opener. However, a 1-7 thrashing at the hands of world No. 1 Australia raised alarm bells but the Manpreet Singh-led side quickly recovered to beat Spain 3-0, reigning Olympic champion Argentina 3-1 and outclassed Japan 3-5 en route to the quarterfinals.
India next face Rio Olympics runners-up and current world champion Belgium in the semifinals on August 3 - the winner of which will progress to the final for the gold medal match. The two losing semifinalists will contest for bronze on August 5.
With PTI Inputs