India scored two goals in the last two minutes to stage an improbable comeback to beat England 4-3 and top Pool B in the Commonwealth Games men’s hockey on Wednesday.
Trailing 2-3 with just four minutes left on the clock, Varun Kumar levelled the scores for the Indians with a penalty corner and Mandeep Singh found the winner when he deflected a cross from the right into the goal with just half a second left for the final hooter.
Rupinder Pal Singh (51st minute) and Manpreet Singh (33rd) scored the other two goals for India while England found the net through David Condon (16th), Liam Ansell (52nd) and Sam Ward (56th).
The win, India’s third in row after a draw against Pakistan in the opening encounter, took them to a total of 10 points and ensured that they avoided defending champions Australia in the semi-finals.
Instead, the 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist will now face New Zealand on Friday while England will face Australia.
With Australia beating New Zealand to top Pool A just before India and England took the field, it was clear that both teams wanted to avoid finishing second. While England could afford a draw due to their superior goal difference, Indians need a win and they made a strong start to the match and Lalit Upadhyay and Dilpreet Singh had chances to put the team ahead within the first five minutes. However, both were guilty of hitting the ball wide.
England then began to pressure the Indian midfield and Mark Gleghorne had a couple of chances to score but goalkeeper PR Sreejesh thwarted any kind of danger.
But that changed within two minutes of the second quarter when Condon latched on to a deflection from Ansell off a Gleghorne cross to beat Sreejesh with a reverse hit.
A few minutes ago, Akashdeep had a golden opportunity to put India ahead when SV Sunil deflected a Mandeep Singh corner towards him but the striker wasn’t quick enough and English goalkeeper George Pinner had kicked the ball away by the time the Indian lined up for a hit.
India did not create a single penalty corner while the ball was mostly played in their own half.
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India showed more urgency after the restart and the equaliser came when Gurjant intercepted an English back pass and Manpreet Singh made no mistake in slotting home from the top of the striking circle after Mandeep Singh played the ball back to the skipper instead of taking the shot himself in the 33rd minute.
The goal rejuvenated India as they began passing more aggressively and controlled the pace of the game. They had a couple of shots on goal but couldn’t finish well.
Rupinderpal Singh finally put India ahead in the 51st minute when his drag-flick was deflected by an English defender.
However, the joy was short lived as England equalised within a minute through an indirect penalty corner conversion with Ansell finding the right hand corner of the goal.
Last minute drama
And England’s leading scorer Ward made the Indians pay for their sloppy work in defence as he converted the team’s fifth penalty corner with an extremely fast dragflick to Sreejesh’s right four minutes from the final hooter.
But the Indians were not willing to give up and pounded the opposition goal with moves from both flanks.
The constant pressure bore fruit as India earned their third penalty corner in the 59th minute and Varun Kumar, who came in for Rupinder (who had hobbled out with an injury), got the ball through the legs of the England goalkeeper.
The Indians were quick to win the ball after the restart and build a move through the right and Mandeep made no mistake in deflecting a cross inside the striking circle.