Indian men’s hockey team’s perennial habit of conceding late goals continued to haunt them as reigning double Olympic champions Germany scored seconds from the final hooter to steal a 2-1 win in a thrilling Pool B match at the Rio Olympics on Monday.
It was heart-break for the Indian fans as despite playing near perfect hockey for the major part of the match, the Germans stole the win just 3.1 seconds from full time.
After weathering India’s attacking onslaught for the most of the game, the Germans exerted tremendous pressure on the Indian defence in the final two minutes.
The Indian defence, which had a good match and stood firm all throughout, fumbled as Christopher Ruhr scored the winner for Germany with a deflection from close range to dash the PR Sreejesh-led side’s hopes.
They had taken the lead against the run of play through a field goal from Niklas Wellen (18th minute) before Rupinder Pal Singh (23rd) made it 1-1 by converting his third penalty corner of the Games.
The win helped Germany keep their successful run intact against India since 1996. India last defeated Germany in Olympics way back in the Atlanta Games when they secured a 3-0 victory.
But despite the loss, the Indians can take heart from the fact that they dished out a much better display against Germany, than what they managed in the recent past, which includes a 3-3 draw against a depleted German side in the Champions Trophy in London and 0-4 thrashing in Valencia just prior to the Olympics.
It was even-stevens between the two sides in the first two quarters with both teams showcasing some good attacking and defending skills.
It was India who had the first scoring chance in the 11th minute but Nikkin Thimmaiah’s backhand shot from a Akashdeep Singh feed was padded away by an alert Nicolas Jacobi.
After a barren opening quarter, the reigning Olympic champions enjoyed a good share of possession at the start of the second and broke the deadlock in the 18th minute against the run of play when Niklas Wellen beat Indian goalkeeper Sreejesh with a forehand strike after being fed by Linus Butt.
The goal pumped up the Germans as they gave some anxious moments to the Indian defence thereafter.
Ruhr soon came close to doubling Germany’s lead only to be denied by Sreejesh.
It took some brilliant individual effort from India’s captain for the match, SV Sunil, to earn a penalty corner, their first of the game. Rupinder pounced on the opportunity and dished out a powerful flick to the right of Jacobi to score his third goal of the Games and level the scores.
If not for German goalkeeper Jacobi, India could have scored at least three to four more goals as they powered forward at every opportunity.
An alert Jacobi first kept away Nikkin’s deflection in the third second quarter and then came up with terrific double save to first deny Rupinder from India’s second penalty corner and then Chinglensana Singh from the resultant rebound as India made a promising start after half time.
The German custodian again came to his side’s rescue to keep away another Nikkin try minutes later.
Germany thereafter secured their only penalty corner of the match in the 47th minute but skipper Moritz Fuerste’s flick was deflected wide by Surender Kumar from the line.
India got another short corner soon but this time Rupinder’s try was blocked by an onrushing runner before Sardar Singh’s deflection from a Surender cross just flew wide of the German goal.
But just when it seemed that India, ranked fifth in the world, had done just enough to split points with the world no 3 Germans, Ruhr spoiled the party with his late strike.
Germany had earlier defeated Canada 6-2 while India beat minnows Ireland 3-2 in their opening pool matches.
India will next play Argentina on Tuesday.
With two wins from as many games, Germany lead Pool B with six points, followed by Netherlands (4) and India (3).
Feature image source: PTI