The 37th edition of Men’s Hockey Champions Trophy started from 23rd June in Breda, Netherlands. The opening game of the Champions Trophy was played between India and Pakistan. Pakistan has won the Champions Trophy thrice and would set their eyes on their fourth title. India has never won the title, their best performance was a 2nd place finish in 2016 where they lost to Australia on penalty shootouts. Pakistan has dominated in Champions Trophy by winning 12 times and India having the upper hand in 6 games. Today’s clash was a clinical display of aggression and compact defending from the Indian side. The Full-time score was 4-0 in favor of India. Ramandeep, Dilpreet, Mandeep and Lalit scored the goals for India. Indian Team outplayed their opposition in all departments.
Let’s look at what transpired in the Indian victory over their arch-rivals Pakistan.
Clinical Indian Attack:
The Indian Team had a slow start to the match. Indian team focused on the ball possession and precise passing. As the game progressed, India’s passing looked threatening and earned them penalty corner in 14th minute. Although Harmanpreet couldn’t convert the penalty corner, it was a sign of Indian attackers finding their feet in the match. The coordination among Indian attackers led to four beautifully crafted goals. The first goal of the match came in the 25th minute. Simranjeet’s cross finding Ramandeep who effectively put it past the Pakistan GoalKeeper. Simranjeet played a crucial part in 2nd goal when his long pass from the half line was successfully received by Dilpreet. Dilpreet coolly maneuvered the ball past the goal line. Pakistan’s strategy to play flying keeper for the last 10 minutes resulted in Indian team scoring two more goals. Mandeep and Lalit scored the last two goals for India with the last goal scored seconds before the final whistle.
Sreejesh- The Great Wall of India:
Pakistan began the match aggressively. They created many chances but it was difficult to breach the Great Wall of Indian Hockey team. Sreejesh had answers to every attack directed towards him. He made some match winning saves to deny goals for brilliant Pakistani attacks. His great positioning sense allowed him to save Ajaz Ahmed’s shot. In 4th quarter, Tasawar’s perfect pass to Umer who directed it towards the goal only to be blocked by Sreejesh. It was an important block as the Indian Team had a slim advantage of one goal at that moment.
Goalproof Indian Defending:
Indian defense had a little shaky start to the match. They had some mistimed clearances initially but as the match progressed they gave a strong performance. They defended a slim lead of 1-0 for the majority of the match. The Pakistani attackers found it difficult to penetrate the defense. Pakistan team managed to win just one penalty corner was a testimony to the strong defending performance from Indians. It was a performance worthy of a clean sheet.
It was a tight contest till India scored the second goal in the 57th minute. After India’s second goal, Pakistan coach Roelant Oltmans decided to play with a flying goalkeeper. This lead to an extra outfield player to support Pakistan’s attack. This strategy backfired miserably as the Indian attackers slotted two more goals in the open goal. On some other day this could have proved to be a masterstroke but on this particular day, it led to the exploitation of Pakistan’s defense.
Lackluster Pakistan attack:
Pakistan began the match aggressively putting Indian defense under pressure. However, their attack couldn’t penetrate India’s defense. Pakistan equalized on the 33rd minute, but it was denied rightfully as Pakistan player hit Indian player’s leg before striking the ball. Two threatening chances from Ajaz Ahmed and Umer were dealt with brilliantly by Sreejesh. Baring those two chances there was no significant threats from Pakistan attackers.