Doha: Vice captain VR Raghunath scored twice as defending Champions India started off their Asian Champions Trophy campaign with a majestic 4-0 victory over China, on Thursday.
Right winger SV Sunil struck early on in the 13th minute. while his statemate and hero of the recent Hockey India League auctions Raghunath, converted team's first penalty corner five minutes later and then another in the 52nd minute.
In the next minute Ranchi Rhino's proud possession Birendra Lakra deflected a carpet drive off Rupinder Pal Singh, which hit a defender’s leg to give India a self goal and a commanding final score of 4-0.
Visibly elated national coach Michael Nobbs rated the performance as solid.
"We gave a solid performance," he said.
Indian captain Sardar Singh attributed the victory to good execution of strategy.
"In the past few years we have been working on winning he first matches comfortably and today’s is another gain for that strategy," he said.
China offered some resistance in the beginning, but had to second-fiddle to Indian forwards as the math wore one.
Sunil struck in the 13 minute, much against the run of play. He trapped a neat a cross from Akashdeep Singh, entered the circle on a spurt before whacking the ball into the net.
Five minutes later, centre-forward Gurwinder Singh Chandi sped past a host of defenders and hit the ball powerfully at the goal. Chinese goalie Rifeng Su came quickly but could not stop ball from rising. India got its first penalty corner of which Raghunath struck with a grounder.
India attacked form the word go, but the Chinese matched the Indian enthusiasm with equal elegance in the defence in the first ten minutes. Both teams were shaky initially, trying to explore each other's territory with caution. Sunil's early goal broke the back of the Chinese defence.
China came close to narrow the margin in the 28th minute but forward Zhixin missed to connect a penalty corner rebound. Even after Indian goalie PR Sreejesh was wrong footed, and stranded, Zhixin hurried to connect but failed.
Indian defence subsequently did not allow any such elbow room for them. Raghunath had to stretch a lot on a couple of occasions to keep Chinese striker Yi Song away in the circle. India changed sides with 2-0 upper hand.
Chinese captain Yi Song outclassed Indian defence often but could not see off goalie PR Sreejesh. Indian goalie twice stopped his sure shot goals.
India created ample chances to go up early in the second half, but Gurwinder Chandi and Sunil messed up some easy looking work outs.
Manpreet Singh and Danish Mujtafa did spade work for Chandi, but he could not get past Chinese goalie from close range.
Raghunath again broke the logjam with another goal. The ball was not properly stopped at the second penalty corner, but he placed a high ball in the next penalty into the net to given India 3-0 lead in the 52nd minute.
Meanwhile, Sardar engineered many moves that propelled youngsters Akashdeep, debutant Aiyappa and Kothajit to test the Chinese waters.
Rupinder Pal sent a carpet drive midway through the second half which Birendra connected with a hawkish eye for the ball (4-0). It turned out to be a self goal as it had hit a defender's leg before the ball finding the home.