Germany's late strike sinks India

Germany's late strike sinks India

Familiar late slippage came to haunt India once again as Germany struck in the dying seconds of their FIH Champions League game to script a hard-fought 1-0 victory here on Saturday.

Standing like a rock until 34 seconds left in the clock in an intensely fought Pool B encounter, man-of-the-match PR Sreejesh mistimed a tackle on Florian Fuchs as the German striker displayed wonderful composure in rounding off the Indian custodian before slotting home the winner at a packed Kalinga Stadium.

While it may seem extremely disappointing for India who had their chances in a vastly open match, they have only themselves to blame, thanks to their sloppy finishing.
Although they didn’t have a major control in the proceedings with chances flowing thick and fast at both ends during the opening two quarters, India’s work in the last two phases left a lot to be desired with none able to send across a dangerous pass into the circle.

The ones that penetrated the ‘D’ rarely threatened the German defence with goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi forced into making just one save when a completely unmarked Akashdeep Singh shot straight at him with goal at his mercy.

Germany, the reigning Olympic champions playing with three debutantes, appeared ragged at the start but started to find their feet from the second quarter onwards. Playing a typical 4-3-3 formation, they kept pouring forward, only to be kept on check by the brilliance of Sreejesh.

In the form of his life, Sreejesh produced some stunning saves that left the Germans scratching their heads. In the second quarter he kept out Martin Zwicker, then acrobatically denied Moritz Furste before producing two more superb saves off Tobias Hauke and Christopher Wesley in the final quarter to keep the Indians in the contest.
His confidence and swagger also rubbed onto the defenders who went toe to toe with the German strike force. But when the strikers fail to take their chances and keep squandering everything against a quality opposition, you are bound to pay and that’s exactly what Fuchs did in drawing all his experience to heap pain on India.

“I’m not at all disappointed,” said a straight-faced India High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans. “If the strikers are not creating chances, I have a reason to be worried. But today, they created plenty but failed to score. However, our reading of the game was poor and that’s an area we have to work upon.”

England, meanwhile, got the tournament off to a cracking start, stunning defending champions Australia 3-1 in their Pool A game while nine-time champions Netherlands made a smooth start to their campaign, polishing off World Cup bronze medallists Argentina 3-0 in Pool B.

Belgium, ranked fourth in the world and dark horses, ground out a gritty 2-1 win over Pakistan in Pool A with exciting young striker Tom Boon producing a peach of a move to set-up the winner for Thomas Briels.

Australia, record 13-time winners and gunning for their sixth straight title, looked nowhere close to their best in the sharp afternoon sun, producing one of their worst performances.

Undergoing a major transition since winning the World Cup this May, the Aussies simply lacked cohesion as an efficient and confident England made the best of the opportunities to show they too are in the mix to go all the way.

DH News Service
Results: Pool A: England: 3 (Alastair Brogdon 6th, Sam Ward 27th, 57th) bt Australia: 1 (Chris Ciriello 54th); Belgium: 2 (Tanguy Cosyns 12th, Thomas Briels 43rd) bt Pakistan: 1 (Muhammad Imran 36th).
Pool B: Netherlands: 3 (Mink vad der Weerden 12th, Robbert Kemperman 19th, Diede van Puffelen 50th) bt Argentina: 0; Germany: 1 (Florian Fuchs 60th) bt India: 0.

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