The long, painful wait for that elusive medal at the Olympics ended when experienced custodian PR Sreejesh successfully defended the penalty corner that Germany had won right at the death. Then off went the hooter as Manpreet Singh and his Men in Blue scripted history by beating Germany 5-4 to secure India’s first Olympic hockey medal after 41 long years.
That was not the only moment when Sreejesh came to team India’s rescue, just like throughout the tournament, the three-Olympic veteran goalkeeper thwarted numerous German attacks in the bronze medal match.
And one of India’s goalscorers in the match Hardik Singh fully highlighted Sreejesh’s role in an exclusive interview to CNN News18. The 22-year-old midfielder said that the comeback was possible because India had an experienced goalkeeper in the form of PR Sreejesh.
“We still cant believe that we have won medal," he said.
“We were losing today’s match, but it was a huge comeback and we are thankful that we had an experienced goal keeper in PR Sreejesh. This was his third Olympic Games," he added.
Germany took an early lead in the goal-rich match through a second-minute goal by Timur Oruz, and posed a threat to eight-time Olympic hockey champions India in the first quarter.
After Simranjeet Singh equalised with a backhand shot for India, Germany kept their cool, scoring two goals to take a 3-1 lead in the second quarter.
But India pulled level late in that quarter thanks to goals by Hardik Singh and Harmanpreet Singh, making it 3-3 at the halftime break.
India then took a 5-3 lead after Rupinder Pal Singh notched in a penalty stroke and Simranjeet Singh scored his second of the match not long into the second half.
Germany came back a goal but was unable to force the equaliser, even after taking out its goalie to bring in an extra field player late in the game.
Meanwhile, midfielder Vivek Pradad, who had scored one goal in his maiden Olympic Games went onto the country for their continuous support and hoped that the women’s team follow their suit when they take on Great Britain in their bronze medal match.
“Thanks to the whole nation because they stood with us the entire time and I am hopeful that the girl’s team will also win tomorrow’s match."
(With Agency Inputs)