India thrash Poland 4-2, face France in final (Lead)

February 24th, 2012 - 11:45 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) The Indian men’s hockey team set up a final clash with France after a come-from-behind 4-2 win over Poland in their last pool match of the 2012 London Olympic qualifiers at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here Friday.

Ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh (26th, 70th) was again the star of the night slamming in two from penalty corners while Shivendra Singh (59th) and Vokkaliga Raghunath (65th) scored one goal apiece. Sandeep is the leading goal scorer in the tournament with 11 goals.

Poland took an early lead through Tomasz Dutkiewicz in the 13th minute and Mirsloaw Juszczak helped them make it 2-2 in the 63rd minute but the winning goal remained elusive.

With France brightening its hopes for a place in final after a 1-1 draw with Canada earlier in the day, India needed just a draw to book a final berth.

But India, as promised by chief coach Michael Nobbs, were in no mood to play for a draw. After the first half ended 1-1, India forced themselves in the second-half with three goals and also assured France a place in Sunday’s final.

India found it tough to breach the solid Polish defence and had to rely on penalty corners for scoring. They earned as many as nine penalty corners and converted three.

It was Poland who took India completely by surprise by earning their first penalty corner against the run of play in the 12th minute. Juszczak did a dummy before Dutkiewicz slammed in as the stadium plunged into silence.

India pushed hard and earned four penalty corners in a space of eight minutes and Sandeep clinically converted the fourth to equalise for the hosts.

Shortly after the break, Shivendra came close to breaking the deadlock but his shot from top of the D missed the goal by a whisker.

India built the pressure on Poland from both the flanks and Sandeep had his drag-flick saved in the 41st minute while two attempts went begging in the 57th minute as Shivendra failed to trap the ball.

Just before the hour mark, Shivendra made it 2-1 deflecting in a brilliant pass from Sarwanjit Singh.

The lead, however, was short-lived as Mirsloaw converted the third penalty corner for the Poles to make it 2-2.

But India came back strongly in the last six minutes through drag-flickers Raghunath and Sandeep to dash Polish hopes.

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