Raghunath spurs India

Drag-flicker scores brace in 4-0 win over China

Vice-captain VR Raghunath scored a brace as defending champions India started off their Asian Champions Trophy campaign with a facile 4-0 victory over China here on Thursday.

Right-winger SV Sunil scored the opener in the 13th minute while Raghu, hero of the recent Hockey India League auctions, converted the team’s first penalty corner five minutes later and then another in the 52nd minute.

In the next minute Ranchi Rhino’s proud possession Birendra Lakra deflected a carpet drive off Rupinder Pal Singh, which hit a defender’s leg to give India a self goal and a commanding final score of 4-0. An elated chief coach Michael Nobbs rated the performance as solid. “We were solid today.”

China offered some resistance in the beginning but had to play second-fiddle to Indian forwards as the math wore one.

Sunil the struck in the 13 minute, much against the run of play. He trapped a neat a cross from Akashdeep Singh, entered the circle on a spurt before whacking the ball into the net. Five minutes later, centre-forward Gurwinder Singh Chandi sped past a host of defenders and hit the ball powerfully at the goal. The ball then ricocheted of ’keeper Rifeng Su before ballooning up. India got its first penalty corner of which Raghunath struck with a grounder.

Indian defence subsequently did not allow any such elbow room for them. Raghunath was tested on a couple of occasions but he held fort as India broke for the interval with a 2-0 lead.

Raghunath then struck again in 52nd minute with a perfectly executed penalty corner strike. Meanwhile, Sardar engineered many moves that propelled youngsters Akashdeep, debutant Aiyappa and Kothajit to test the Chinese waters.

Rupinder sent a carpet drive midway through the second half which Birendra connected finely as India went 4-0 ahead. It turned out to be a self goal as the ball hit a defender’s leg before sounding the board.

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