The Indian men’s hockey team began their FIH Hockey Pro League campaign with a comprehensive 5-0 win over France in Potchefstroom on Tuesday.

The Manpreet-led side’s first win of 2022 was sealed by goals from Harmanpreet Singh (21’), Varun Kumar (24’), Shamsher Singh (28’), Mandeep Singh (32’) and Akashdeep Singh (41’)

Hockey, FIH Pro League, India vs France as it happened: Five different scorers as India win 5-0

India went on an attacking mode right from the word go, putting pressure on the French defence but the first quarter was a case of missed chances. The World No 3 side had their first opening in the initial minutes when Harmanpreet’s pass from the middle of the pitch found Nilakanta in good space, but his flick from the centre of the circle went flying above the goal post.

Goalscoring in INDvFRA

Team Minute Shirt # Player Action Score
India 21 13 Singh Harmanpreet Penalty Corner 0 - 1
India 24 22 Kumar Varun Penalty Corner 0 - 2
India 28 21 Singh Shamsher Field Goal 0 - 3
India 32 11 Singh Mandeep Field Goal 0 - 4
India 41 27 Singh Akashdeep Field Goal 0 - 5
via FIH

Minutes later, India again got yet another chance to draw the first blood, but France’s defence nullified the attack. The Indians continued to pile on the attacking moves and earned back-to-back Penalty Corners after nearly 10 minutes. However attempts by debutant Jugraj Singh were denied by the French goalkeeper Arthur Thieffry, thus ending the first quarter 0-0. PR Sreejesh, who played the first and third quarters, had a relatively quiet outing on his return.

India looked more dangerous in the second quarter, with the forward line making dangerous penetrating runs inside the opposition’s circle. Their efforts paid off as India won the third PC in the 21st minute of the match, which was converted by the vice captain Harmanpreet. Having taken control of the proceedings, India went on to take a 2-0 lead, courtesy of another PC conversion from Varun in the 23rd minute. It was near identical drag flick to the earlier one from Harmanpreet, low to the right of the opponent’s goalkeeper.

France, regaining some impetus, went on to win a PC in the 28th, but the Indian defence stood tall to deny them a goal and a quick counterattack from India led by Nilakanta and Shamsher put India in the driver’s seat. Nilakanta’s pass downfield first found Abhishek who then found Shamsher in the right spot, and he calmly nicked into the back of the nets, making the scoreline 3-0 at the end of half-time. It was a goal that was effectively converted in around 15 seconds from defence to attack.

At half time coach Graham Reid said he wanted the team to treat this as 0-0 and keep things simple, and avoid “Bollywood” hockey.

The third quarter started in a similar fashion, with India enjoying the possession and making moves in France’s half. Mandeep went on to add the 4th goal in just the second minute of the third quarter, with a smart assits from captain Manpreet. Desperately looking for a goal, France regained some strength to keep India’s attack at bay. They had slightly better possession in the latter stage of the third quarter. However, a mistake from the French Captain inside the circle gave Akashdeep a golden opportunity to mark his 200th appearance with a well-deserved goal. The veteran forward added India’s 5th goal to the tally in the 41st minute. He was declared player of the match.

Trying to look for an opportunity, France started the final quarter aggressively and themselves back-to-back Penalty Corners in the initial minutes. However, the Indian goalkeeper for the final quater Krishan Pathak stood tall to deny France their first goal. The latter stage of the final quarter saw some end-to-end action, with India slowing down the proceedings to ensure a comprehensive 5-0 win.

India will play their second match against South Africa on Wednesday at 21:30 hrs IST.