Rio de Janeiro: Rupinder Pal Singh struck twice as drag-flickers ruled the roost to help India register a fighting 3-2 win over Ireland in their opening match of the men’s hockey competition at the Olympics, here today.
Drag-flickers VR Raghunath (15th minute) and Rupinder (27th, 49th) converted three out of seven penalty corners India earned in the match to secure their first win in an opening clash at the Olympics since Sydney Games 2000.
Ireland gave India a run for their money, especially in the second half, finding the net twice through Jermyn John (45th) and Conor Harte (56th) at the Olympic Hockey Centre.
Going by world rankings, India (5th) were the favourites in the Pool B encounter against Ireland (12th) and the eight-time gold medallist started on expected note by dominating the first two quarters.
From the word go, the Indians started on an attacking note and put pressure on the Ireland citadel with relentless raids.
The Irish, on the other hand, were happy to fall back and defend in numbers, depending mainly on counter attacks to stun their opponents.
India’s domination can be gauged from the fact that they earned as many as six penalty corners in the first two quarters as against Ireland’s two.
India’s first real scoring chance came in the last minute of the first quarter when they earned their first penalty corner but their variation didn’t work and from the resultant build-up Ramandeep Singh’s effort was saved an alert by David Harte in front of Irish goal.
Then just a second from the end of the first quarter India earned three more back-to-back penalty corners, the last of which was ably converted by VR Raghunath with a powerful low flick to the right of the Irish goalkeeper.
Seven minutes into the second quarter Ireland had their first scoring chance when they secured a penalty corner and John Jermyn scored from the opportunity but the goal was disallowed as the push was not stopped properly.
Ireland earned another short corner three minutes later, but the try went wide.
India then secured their fifth penalty corner which was beautifully converted by Rupinder Pal Singh in the 27th minute.
The Indians managed to get another penalty corner in the final minute of the second quarter but wasted the opportunity as they went into the breather with a two-goal cushion.
After the change of ends, Ireland looked a completely different side as they took the initiate and pressed the Indian defence hard in search of goals.