New Delhi: Danish Mujtaba scored a brace as India came from behind to beat a gritty Bangladesh 5-1 in their final round robin match and qualify for the third round of the Hero Hockey World League at the floodlit Major Dhyan Chand Stadium on Sunday.
Danish (15th minute, 64th) starred for India with two field goals while Rupinder Pal Singh (32nd), Akashdeep Singh (50th) and Malak Singh (58th) also sounded the board once each for the hosts in their final match of the Hockey World League Round 2.
But it was Bangladesh who surprised the Indians when Md Mamunur Rahman Chayan scored opening goal of the match in the fifth minute. (File photo: Danish Mujtaba)
By virtue of this win, India has topped the men’s competition with 15 point from five wins, three points clear of second-placed Ireland, who also progressed to the Hockey World League Round 3, a qualifying tournament for next year’s FIH World Cup in Hague, The Netherlands.
But against Bangladesh, the Indians were nowhere near to their best in the opening half as they looked off-colour in all departments of the game.
The 11th ranked Indians came into the match high on confidence with four convincing wins under their belt, but they didn't look dominating as they should have been, at least in the opening 35 minutes.
The Indians struggled with penalty corners as they utilised just one of the seven short corners that came their way.
Vice captain and ace drag-flicker V R Raghunath looked a pale shadow of himself today as he failed to convert a single penalty corner into goal.
Credit should also go to Bangladesh who produced a lion-hearted performance against the mighty Indians. The Bangla boys put up a stubborn defence in the opening half to frustrate the Indian forwards.
The Indians were in for a rude shock when 40th ranked Bangladesh took the lead in the fifth minute through Chayan, who converted their only penalty corner of the match.
Stunned by Bangladesh's early strike, India went into offensive mode with repeated attacks, only to find opposition goalkeeper Md Zahid Hossain standing in between them and goal.
The Indians, however, drew parity in the 15th minute when Danish scored with the faintest of deflection from Raghunath’s feed down the middle.
Rupinder then surged India ahead three minutes from the break when he converted India’s second penalty corner.
The second half saw a completely different Indian side as they looked more coordinated and orgainsed which eventually refelected in the final outcome of the game.
Young Akashdeep tripled India’s lead in the 50th minute when he neatly deflected in Harbir Singh’s cross from the left flank.
The Indians did not give an inch to the Bangladeshis after the change of ends as the visitors’ defence was caught napping by India’s relentless attacks in the second half.
Malak made it 4-0 in favour of India by deflecting home Gurjinder Singh’s cross from the right before Danish scored his second goal of the day just six minutes from the hooter after he was set up captain Sardar Singh’s brilliant work down the left flank.
For his tireless work, inspirational Sardar Singh was adjudged player-of-the-tournament, while Raghunath was emerged as the joint highest scorer of the event along with Allen Sothern of Ireland.
Sadar was awarded with Rs one lakh by Hockey India for winning the player-of-the-tournament award.
India chief coach Michael Nobbs said he was happy with the performance of the youngsters and was also impressed with the consistency of the team since the Champions Trophy.
"In this tournament our first aim was to try and improve as a team and qualify for the next round, which we have achieved. Youngsters like Malak Singh and Mandeep Singh have played really well and we have to keep trying out young players to build a larger pool," he said.
Meanwhile, in earlier matches of the men's competition today, Oman defeated Fiji 7-3, while Ireland outclassed China 4-0.