Britain hand India 3-2 defeat in Olympic hockey qualifier

March 7th, 2008 - 10:38 pm ICT by admin  

Santiago (Chile), March 7 (IANS) Great Britain crashed through India’s defence with a rasping last-minute strike from Rob Moore to snatch a thrilling 3-2 win and virtually stormed into the final of the Olympic Games hockey qualifying tournament here. India’s propensity to concede late goals came back to haunt them in the crucial league match, as a minute before the final whistle Moore cashed in on the jangling nerves of the opposition and slipped in a winner.

Great Britain finished with 12 points from four successive matches. India tasted first loss after three victories and are second in the table with nine points. India, who have never missed the Olympic Games hockey tournament since 1928, will now have to get past hosts Chile Saturday to book a berth in the final.

Only the tournament winner will qualify for the Beijing Olympic Games Aug 8-24.

In the other matches, Austria defeated Mexico 3-1 after the two teams were locked 1-1 at half time, while Russia edged past Chile 2-1.

In the clash between the two top teams of the tournament, India started with a bang and were 1-0 up via a penalty corner as early as in the third minute. V R Raghunath’s powerful flick ripped open Great Britain’s defence as goalkeeper Alistair McGregor was caught wrong-footed.

India’s both goals came from Raghunath, who also became tournament’s leading scorer with eight strikes.

India were reduced to 10 men after Vickram Kanth was shown a yellow card even as Great Britain settled down following the early goal and threatened the Indian fort but failed to give the finishing touch.

Great Britain’s equaliser finally came through a penalty corner conversion by Richard Mantell in the 15th minute. India then made some fast penetrating forays to get on top of Great Britain but missed chances.

After Kanth’s return India were hit once again and were forced to play with 10 men after Shivendra Singh was shown a yellow card for a careless tackle.

Great Britain controlled the game towards the end of the first half and came close to scoring. At half time, the teams were locked 1-1.

India attacked with vengeance right from the word go in the second half that earned them a series of penalty corners. But their opponents survived the fierce onslaught.

Great Britain also forced some penalty corners but were unsuccessful in converting them. They took the lead in the 45th minute through Jonty Clarke, who was playing his 100th match. Clarke received the ball in front of an empty goal after a decisive penetrating run on the right by Ali Wilson and Richard Alexander.

India tried to create chances by hitting long balls, but the Great Britain defence held solid. India finally equalised in the 64th minute when Raghunath struck again via a penalty corner.

Great Britain had the last laugh with Moore, following another fast combination of passes in the striking circle, scored a field goal in the 69th minute.

In another match, Austria defeated Mexico 3-1 after the two teams were locked 1-1 at half time. Austria’s Michael Korper opened the scoring on penalty-corner in the 6th minute, but the score was leveled a few minutes later by a strike from Francisco Aguilar Montoya. Benjamin Stanzl again scored for Austria in the 55th minute. Korper scored another in the dying moments.

In the last match Russia edged past Chile 2-1. Russia scored through Evgeny Mokrousov and Alan Steyn struck for Chile in the 65th minute. The joy of the home crowd was short-lived as Dmitry Azarov gave back the lead to his team on a deserved penalty-stroke.

If Austria (9 points), upset Great Britain (12 points) they will take their tally to 12. To avoid the second finalists being decided on goal difference - a scenario in which India are currently better placed - India will have to beat Chile and qualify for the finals.

India’s Ignace Tirkey was felicitated for his 200th international cap while Danish umpire Henrik Ehlers officiated in his 150th international.

In the last set of league matches, India meet Chile, Britain clash with Austria and Mexico will play Russia.

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