Hockey: Bharat saves India’s blushes

first_imgBharat Chikara was the Indian saviour as his late goal helped the hosts to a hard-fought 3-2 victory in their Commonwealth Games hockey opener on Tuesday.The 24-year-old struck with four minutes left on the clock to ease Indian nerves as the Malaysians once again proved a tough nut to crack.He grabbed hold of a loose ball at the top of the circle and slammed home, giving Malaysian custodian Kumar Subramiam no chance.However, with world champions Australia up next and arch-rivals Pakistan in the same group, chief coach Jose Brasa and his support staff need to tie up the loose ends quickly if India are to break their medal duck at the Commonwealth Games.The hosts had to come from behind twice despite dominating the early exchanges. India did most of the attacking in the match but had to rely on two penalty corner conversions to go into half-time on an equal footing.Malaysia were always dangerous on the counter-attack and as the Indians left gaps in the midfield and defence, they were made to pay.The Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium was by no means full, as it used to be during the World Cup earlier this year, but the crowd still made plenty of noise.The Indian midfield and defence was given a hard time by Abdul Jalil Tengku, whose mazy and penetrative runs often left the hosts chasing shadows.The noisy crowd was stunned in the 15th minute when a nice build-up on the left flank by Mohammad Jalil was capitalised upon by Hafifihafiz Hanafi, whose reverse hit beat Indian goalkeeper Bharat Chetri on his near post.advertisementThe first penalty corner that India got in the 22nd minute was wasted as the Malaysian closed down quickly.But the second one in the 27th minute proved fruitful as Dhananjay Mahadik beat Subramiam with his powerful effort.But with just over a minute to go for the half-time hooter, Azlan Misron latched on to a defence-splitting through pass to find the target from the top of the box.India were thrown a lifeline in the shape of their third penalty corner, and even as the hooter went, Sandeep Singh restored parity with his drag-flick.India upped the ante in the second half but the resolute Malaysian defence kept thwarting their attempts. Giving the ball away in midfield on several occasions, Indians almost courted danger on some occasions with Tengku always proving elusive.But Bharat’s goal gave India the win which, on the balance of play, seemed deserved. Brasa was relieved with the result. “It was a difficult game, but I am happy with the win as the three points are most important.”We played well in patches and will have to work hard for the match against Australia,” the Spaniard said. Captain Rajpal Singh admitted that there still was a lot of room for improvement.”Performance-wise, I am not happy. But I will take the result,’ he said. Australia beat India 5-2 at the World Cup at the same venue earlier this year and the memory is fresh in Rajpal’s mind.”We will not repeat the mistakes we made in that match,” the forward promised.last_img

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