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At last, some cheer for the team

By V Bhaskaran
August 28, 2004 18:19 IST
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Full marks to the Indian team for their resounding victory over South Korea, that too by a comprehensive margin of 5-2. This victory must have brought some cheers and satisfaction to the team management, especially coach Gerhard Rach.

Truly the architect of Saturday's victory was the nippy Gagan Ajit Singh. He scored a couple of classic goals and also had a hand in all other three goals scored by Vikram Pillay, Prabhjot Singh and Adam Sinclair.

The win was mainly due to the controlled hockey India played in the first half with mid-field players Viren Rasquinha, Vikram Pillay and Arjun Halappa coming up with a good performance.

This was the first time I saw there were lot of short passes and also long passes on both the wings which kept troubling the deep defence of the Koreans.

Though the Korean forwards tried hard to put pressure on our mid-fielders, they were not successful. Vikram and Viren had another outstanding day out on the field and showed they were consistent throughout the tournament.

In the deep defence, captain Dilip Tirkey effectively stopped every move by the Koreans. Harpal Singh too came out with good tackling and supported the mid-field with authority. It was unfortunate that he got injured in the last 10 minutes of the game.

India's display was admirable, especially in the first half, which completely belonged to them. The forwards combined well and the short passes between them led to four goals in quick succession. The counter attacks were successful, which made the Korean defenders commit many mistakes and cave in under pressure.

Another noteworthy thing about the game was that for the first time in this tournament the Indian team made good use of its left wing, with Arjun Halappa and Prabhjot combining well.

Though Prabhjot at times played an individual game, he proved he can play some good attacking hockey too.

South Korea had never lost to Indian by such a margin and the credit for the big win should go to the young lot who played without the seasoned Baljit Dhillon and Dhanraj Pillay for most part.

Another positive for India in this match was that all their goals were field goals, a good performance from the forwards indeed.

In the second half the Koreans attacked with full vigour and put Indian defenders under pressure. They earned five penalty-corners and converted two into goals, which made the score line 2-4.

At that stage, there was a slight feeling that the South Koreans may pull off a surprise. But thankfully it did not happen, mainly due to some good defence by the Indian mid-field.

In the 65th minute, a combined counter move by Halappa and Prabhjot to Gagan on the left saw him beat two defenders and pass the ball to an unmarked Adam Sincliar, who made it 5-2.

At that stage, the writing was on the wall for the Koreans. Thus India finished seventh at the 2004 Olympics as they did in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

The victory was a fitting tribute to old war horses Dhanraj Pillay and Baljit Dhillon, who most likely played their last Olympics. Unfortunately, both the players were on the ground for just the last 10 minutes.

Their hockey careers may have ended without a medal at the Olympics but one must not forget their contribution to the game.

Previous column: India let down by younger players

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V Bhaskaran
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