2019 Men's FIH Olympic Qualifiers, India vs Russia 2nd leg: Preview, prediction, telecast, date, start time and where to watch online
Had it not been for Sreejesh's agility between the posts, Graham Reid's hapless Indian team may well have earned the ire of the passionate Odisha crowd who had thronged the stadium to witness a goal fest in the Olympic Qualifiers against Russia.
Manpreet Singh and co. had decimated by the Russians by a 10-0 margin at the same venue not so long ago but failed to make short work of their opponents much to the chagrin of the fans who were expecting a repeat performance from their heroes.
As it turned out, the hosts finally got their act together to record a 4-2 win. But a two-goal cushion will scarcely allow the Indian think-tank to rest easy ahead of the second leg which many thought would be rendered insignificant courtesy of a massive win for the Indians in the first encounter.
The Indian forward line failed to get their act together in and around the striking circle. The goalbound shots lacked sting - and the ones that were unleashed hard and true were thwarted by goalkeeper Marat Gafarov whose incredible saves have kept the Russians within striking distance ahead of the crucial second and final leg.
Rupinder Pal Singh was found wanting in defence and the Russians repeatedly entered the Indian circle almost at will - enjoying a great deal of possession against their higher-ranked opponents who seemed hopelessly at sea for the most part.
The coaching staff will no doubt ensure that Manpreet and co. are better organized on the pitch tomorrow and it remains to be seen if the Russians can retain their rhythm and tackle the heat and humidity as well as the hosts - but for the sake of their ardent fans, the Indians will be hoping to give a better account of themselves on the hallowed Kalinga pitch.
Here is how you can catch all the action:
Event: Olympic Qualifiers, 2019
Venue: Bhubaneswar, India
Date: 2 November, 2019
Time: 8:00 pm Indian Standard Time (IST)
Telecast: Star Sports
Live Streaming: Hotstar
Live Updates: Sportskeeda
A far more fluent display is on the cards from the Indians who will undoubtedly get better after the opening-match stutters. The think-tank will need to work overtime to find a way to stop the Russians from advancing deep ever-so-often while the strikers who have combined brilliantly in the past will be looking to regain the magic touch.