India swept all top awards at the Under-21 Sultan of Johor Cup hockey championship in Malaysia. India retained the coveted title to complete what has been a golden month for Indian hockey. Recently, India had beaten Pakistan en route to the Asian Games gold in Incheon after a 26-year gap.
India rode twin strikes from Harmanpreet Singh to retain the Johor Cup. In a keenly fought final at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium in Johor Bahru, India beat Great Britain by the odd-goal-in-three. Harmanpreet finished top scorer of the tournament with nine goals. He was also the Player of the Tournament.
India captain Harjeet Singh was declared the Most Promising Player of the Tournament. India were unbeaten in the tournament and looked strong against top teams. Beating Pakistan 6-0 and trouncing Australia 6-2 were standout performances in the invitational tournament. Australia defeated New Zealand 6-2 to finish third.
The win against Britain did not come easy. The first half produced no goals. Harmanpreet converted India's first penalty corner in the 46th minute but Britain responded with the equalizer in the 56th minute when Samuel French scored from a penalty corner.
India's match-winner came 45 seconds from the hooter when Harmanpreet scored from once again from a penalty corner. India's ability to maintain pressure drew praise from coach Harendra Singh.
"It was anyone's game.Â This team has shown immense potential to emerge as the one of the best teams in the world with the kind of class and dignity they have played with today.
"Our aim was to concentrate on interception and keeping possession of the ball. We were able to remain composed in the second half and execute our plans in the second session. That was excellent work," said Singh.
Harmanpreet was certainly the toast of the tournament but goalkeeper Abhinav Pandey stood like a wall and thwarted several British attempts to help India retain the crown.
The Indian team returns on Monday night.