Asian Games 2018: Men's hockey team registers their biggest ever win in the history of the competition
"The need of the hour is to keep the momentum going ahead of the World Cup,'' were Harendra Singh's words on the eve of his team's Asian Games opener, and the Indian coach could not have asked for a better start.
India break their own Games record
Sreejesh's side has recorded India's biggest ever win in the history of the Asian Games competition. The Indians had earlier beaten Iran by a 12-0 margin in 1974 and also beaten Bangladesh by an identical margin in the 1982 Asian Games at Delhi.
The win over hosts Indonesia is also one of the biggest ever in the competition, as Pakistan had earlier beaten Bangladesh by an identical 17-0 margin in the 1978 Asian Games.
Rupinder Pal Singh was rested for the Champions Trophy with the Asian Games in mind and simply could not wait to get going. The Indians earned a PC within seconds of the opening hooter and the towering Rupinder fired in his trademark drag flick past the hapless Indonesian keeper.
Drag-flickers and strikers run riot
The hosts barely had barely enough time to breathe before Harendra's boys earned yet another PC, and this time Rupinder's flick found the chest of an Indonesian defender positioned right at the goalmouth. The referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty stroke and Rupinder scored his second.
The Indians earned yet another PC in the sixth minute and although Harmanpreet's shot was blocked by the goalie, Dilpreet was quick to pounce on the rebound and score India's third goal. A couple of minutes later, Amit Rohidas lined up for India's fourth PC but failed to score as he was charged down by the Indonesian runner.
Lalit Upadhyay very nearly got his name on the scoresheet, but Akashdeep's assist which was meant for him was intercepted by an Indonesian defender who tragically misdirected the ball into his own goal!
Nothing was going right for the hosts, and Simranjeet Singh gave them a display of some brilliant individual skill as he entered the striking circle from the left and delivered a stinging reverse hit from the edge of the circle.
One can only imagine what it must have been like for Indonesian goalkeeper Permana Dea who was subsequently replaced by Ahmad Fikri. The Indians had scored five goals in the space of fifteen minutes and were looking unstoppable.
Unselfish play up front
The Indonesians were determined to do better in the second quarter and came at the Indians a lot harder, making it tough for them to find space and managed to make some vital interceptions. The defence held on for just under ten minutes before stalwarts SV Sunil and Sardar Singh played a marvellous one-two, and the veteran from Sowmarpet scored India's sixth.
The floodgates seemed to open yet again as the ever-dependable Sunil set young Vivek Sagar up who tapped the ball into the net the very next minute.
Quite against the run of play, Indonesian striker Audah Bara made a scintillating run towards the Indian circle. Sreejesh's boys did not quite know how to react and Bara kept running and entered the striking circle before he was finally challenged.
The action continued at the other end when Mandeep was the beneficiary of a typical assist from Akashdeep and joined the long list of goalscorers for the day. With a few seconds left for the lemon break, Dilpreet too joined the party and the Indians left the pitch with a massive nine-goal lead.
If the Indonesians had expected some mercy in the second half, they were badly mistaken as yet again, the Indians earned a PC a minute into the third quarter, and Harmanpreet Singh scored his first goal of the match. Akashdeep then helped Dilpreet score and the Indians were ahead by eleven goals.
Indonesian goalie Fikri was doing all he could amidst the onslaught and made some good saves too. He failed to stop Simranjeet, however, who was at his best on the day and combined with fellow strikers Lalit and Sunil to increase his team's tally midway through the third quarter.
Lalit Upadhyay, deservedly got his name on the scoresheet finally when he scored India's thirteenth goal with seventeen minutes still to go for the end of regulation time.
Mandeep Singh scored twice in the space of two minutes to score a hattrick, and Simranjeet too did just the same soon after. In the 53rd minute, Amit Rohidas scored a magnificent goal off a drag flick which possibly would have beaten any goalkeeper in the world.
Richard Brando frantically tried to penetrate the Indian defence to find a lone consolation goal but failed to get close to Krishan Pathak who had replaced Sreejesh under the crossbar.
The Indians managed an astounding 40 shots on goal in 60 minutes out of which 28 were from open play. Harendra will be happy with the drag-flickers too as the Indians converted 6 of their of 11 PCs and will look to continue their dominant run in the matches ahead.