Hockey World League semis: Walmiki brothers power India to a 3-0 win over Poland
India played their second match at the Hockey World League (HWL) semi-finals against lowly Poland. India came into this match after a morale-boosting 3-2 win over France while Poland lost narrowly to Pakistan (2-1).
India and Poland have faced each other 9 times since the 1972 Olympics with India winning 5 times and losing just once. Their biggest win over the Poles was 7-0 at the 2011 Champions Challenge Hockey tournament. India started without injured drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh, who trained ahead of the match, but was preserved for the tougher upcoming matches against Pakistan and Australia.
The men in blue started the match on a bright note, pushing the European team on the backfoot from the start. Akashdeep Singh had an easy chance to put India in the lead when Manpreet Singh’s cross found the striker near the goal, but the youngster mishit his shot when he had the goal at his mercy. In the 8th minute of the match, Arkadiusz Matuszak was called in action by Nikkin Thimmaiah, but the Polish goalkeeper stood tall to keep the scoreline on level terms. For the rest of the quarter, Poland defended well and prevented India from breaking the deadlock.
Poland started the second quarter better of the two as they penetrated the Indian circle twice in the first 3 minutes, but were unable to test the Indian goalkeeper, PR Sreejesh. The underdogs also got the first penalty corner of the match in the 20th minute, but PR Sreejesh stretched to his right and made a brilliant save. However, Yuvraj Walmiki knocked the wind out of the Polish sails with a sensational chipped goal in the 23rd minute.
In the 27th minute, Sardar Singh put Dharamvir Singh through on goal with a brilliant pass, but his shot went wide. India got their first penalty corner of the match in the final minute of the half. Manpreet Singh, who scored through a penalty corner against France, hit the shot low into the bottom corner, but the Polish goalkeeper went down lightning fast and saved brilliantly with his stick. The half-time hooter went off soon after as the players went off for a much-needed break.
Devindar Walmiki proves his worth
5 minutes into the third quarter, Akashdeep Singh suffered an injury after Lalit Upadhyay’s shot hit him on the wrist. India won a penalty corner in the 38th minute and Jasjit Singh stepped up to take the shot, but the team tried a variation which failed to produce the desired result as Poland got the ball clear. In the 42nd minute, India’s captain Sardar Singh went on a solo run and finished with aplomb from just inside the opponent D to double India’s lead.
In the final quarter of the match, after an dull start, Devindar Walmiki got his second goal of the tournament with a brilliant flick from just inside the D after Chinglensana Singh drilled in a cross after brilliant work to get away from his marker. The final few moments saw India keep possession, while Poland tried to get a consolation goal, but Paul van Ass’s side stood firm.
The Indians changed their attacking tactic for this match penetrating the circle through the middle on most occasions, in stark contrast to the first match against France, where the majority of their attacks came from the right. India face Pakistan next in their next match on June 26 at 7.30 pm while Poland's go up against France in their next clash on 24th ?June at 5.30 pm.