Sunil saves India the blushes

Manpreet's men struggle past gritty Wales

Sunil saves India the blushes

SV Sunil's oodles of experience came in handy as his 59th minute strike enabled India to pip a gritty Wales 4-3 in their second pool B encounter at the Commonwealth Games, here on Sunday.

Sunil found the back of the net off a rebound after the Wales custodian had parried away Rupinderpal Singh's drag-flick. Unlike the drawn game against Pakistan, the Indian defence held its nerve during the final minute to log home full points.

The other scorers for India were Dilpreet Singh (16th), Mandeep Singh (28th) and Harmanpreet Singh (57th).

For Wales, Gareth Furlong scored a hat-trick to snatch India's lead on three occasions (17', 45' and 58'), converting three out of the four penalty corners that Wales earned thus keeping his team's hopes alive for the better part of the match.

India captain Manpreet Singh admitted that he didn't expect the match to go to the wire.

"We didn't expect a hard (tough) game. We missed a few good chances and made it harder for ourselves. We shouldn't have given them easy penalty corners. We need to fix our defensive structure," a concerned India captain said as his team lost the lead three occasions before Sunil sealed it.

Earlier, India had begun well, putting their fierce attack on display with Akashdeep Singh driving into the left flank of the Welsh circle only a minute into the start.

His assist to Gurjant Singh saw in India winning the first penalty corner of the match. However, Harmanpreet's flick was well-saved.

Splitting points with Pakistan after a 2-2 draw in their opener, it was a must-win game for India to keep their semifinal hopes alive.

After losing out on two back-to-back penalty corner in the 54th minute, Harmanpreet converted when India won another penalty corner in the 56th minute fetching a much-needed 3-2 lead.

However, an infringement by an Indian defender in the 57th minute saw Wales being awarded a short corner.

A perfect conversion by Furlong put India under further stress. A crucial video referral appealed by India was upheld by the umpire, awarding India a penalty corner with less than two minutes for the final hooter.

After working a powerful injection, Sunil positioned himself to tap the ball home in his second attempt to seal the match for India.

"I am happy with the win but not with our performance because we can do so much better than this. Though we were a better team today compared to our first match against Pakistan, we need to play our A game against Malaysia if we want to see ourselves in the semifinal," stated chief coach Sjoerd Marijne.

India take on Malaysia in their next Pool B match, a team that heavily relies on penalty corners and on a good day can cause an upset win. After a poor conversion rate in penalty corners on the day when India won 13 of them, Marijne would want his team to improve on this aspect.

"We cannot miss any opportunity to score and today there were plenty of those opportunities. But I am hopeful the win today will give us a good moment for the next game," he signed off.

On Tuesday, India play Malaysia in their final pool game.

 

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