Bhubaneswar, 08 December 2018: The second Pool C match pitted a stoic Canada team, who had conceded no penalty corners prior to this match, against an Indian side determined to take the top of the pool position. The first quarter saw a pressure cooker of an atmosphere slowly build on the pitch and in the stands. That tipped over in the 12th minute as Harmanpreet Singh shot his team into the lead from a penalty corner after the Indian forwards had piled pressure onto the Canada defence. Prior to that moment, the Canada goalkeeper Antoni Kindler and his defence had withstood everything that Manpreet Singh and his men had thrown at them.
The second quarter saw much of the same pattern. Manpreet Singh was becoming more and more pivotal to the India attack, sending aerial balls high and deep into the Canadian defensive area, feeding, among others, Lalit Upadhyay who danced around the Canadian circle but was unable to get his shot away. Akasdeep Singh came closest to doubling the lead, as he picked up a bouncing ball and shot to Kindler’s right-hand post. The tall ‘keeper was down quickly to make the save and keep the India lead to 1-0.
While Canada were mostly playing a defensive game, they also created their own chances. Keegan Pereira, who was born in India, forced a save from PR Sreejesh and Floris van Son fed a lovely ball through to Oliver Scholfield but he was unable to find a way past Sreejesh.
As the second half go under way, Harendra Singh, India’s Head Coach, called for his players to play a calmer game. He said the pressure his team was creating was good, but to really capitalise, they had to keep their composure in front of goal.
The importance of composure in front of goal was demonstrated perfectly by Canada’s van Son who momentarily silenced the crowd when he brought Canada back on equal terms. The player, who came in as a replacement for Brandon Pereira, was perfectly placed to receive the ball and shoot smartly past Sreejesh.
Emerging for the final quarter, India knew they had to score and put the game to rest. There was a definite ramping up of the pressure and with just one minute of the quarter played, a great ball into the circle by KothajitKhadangbam was cleared by Kindler but picked up by ChinglensanaKangujam, who shot home to restore India’s lead. As the spectators went wild, India fed off the energy and there was a visible shift through the gears, leaving Canada unable to match their opponent’s speed and attacking flair. Upadhyay made it 3-1 when he slammed home a few seconds later and Amit Rohidas put the game beyond doubt when he rifled home a penalty corner to make it 4-1.
A fifth goal and a second for Upadhyay – voted Player of the Match – was the final scoring action of the game, although Canada had to endure a series of penalty corners before the final whistle blew. Despite the loss, Canada qualify for the cross-over matches by virtue of a better goal difference than South Africa.
Head Coach Harendra Singh, “We really respect Canada because they made us struggle in the first half. In the second half we stuck to our game plan. They relaxed more in the final quarter, they waited for the opportunities and they came in the fourth quarter. Now, we are in the play-off rounds, we are about to start climbing a mountain so there will be less oxygen, the fittest will survive. We will rest now and prepare and plan for the quarter finals. I think the right preparations, the right mood and the right atmosphere will help us achieve our targets.”
Manpreet Singh, India captain, added: “I think we played very well today. But I think in the second and third quarters we lacked of energy. However in the fourth quarter we put more energy and we got quite good goals. Obviously it was important for us to finish at the top of the pool. That’s why we played very well today.”