They’ve done it!
India men's hockey team will be at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo after a stellar all-around show helped them convincingly defeat Russia in their FIH Olympic Qualifier at Bhubaneshwar’s Kalinga stadium on Saturday.
Picking up from where they left off on Friday, India’s Akashdeep Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh scored two goals each on the night to help India to a 11-3 victory on aggregate and qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Russia hit the front
The visitors got off to a dream start as forward Alexey Sobolevskiy scored in the very first minute of the game, nestling one onto the roof of the net. After that early goal though, it was India who dominated the remainder of the first quarter.
They enjoyed greater possession, and their rapid movements in the final third caused problems for the Russian defence. Simranjeet Singh had a great chance in the last few minutes of the quarter, but he skied his shot to leave the score at 1-0.
The hosts came all guns blazing in the second quarter, and soon found the equaliser through Lalit Upadhyay in the 17th minute. A smart pass from captain Manpreet Singh found Hardik Singh unmarked on the left, and his powerful shot got a ricochet off Upadhyay to find the back of the net.
Minutes later, India got the lead for the first time on the night, as Harmanpreet Singh’s saved drag-flick fell kindly to Akashdeep, who stroked one past the Russian goalkeeper. Akashdeep soon doubled his tally for the night, scoring a neat solo goal from a tight angle.
By the third quarter, the visitors began committing more bodies forward in a bid to salvage a miraculous comeback. That emphasis on attack though left them light at the back, with the likes of Mandeep Singh and SV Sunil having chances to extend India’s lead. The hosts linked up very well in the final third but lacked the final product, as the penultimate quarter ended with no change to the scoreline.
In the second minute of the final quarter, India’s Nilakanta Sharma added further gloss to the scoreline as his shot from the right was too good for the Russian shot-stopper. India scored another within a minute, this time through drag-flicker Rupinder Pal, to make the score 9-3 on aggregate.
Those two goals seemed to drain the energy from the Russian side, as they struggled to create any chances going forward.
India’s PR Sreejesh, who replaced Krishan Pathak in the second quarter, had precious little to do throughout his spell. The hosts continued to dominate the final few minutes of the game, nonchalantly finding spaces in the Russian defence. In the final couple of minutes, Rupinder Pal and Amit Rohidas scored through penalty corners to win 7-1 on the night and qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games with a 11-3 aggregate scoreline.