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Hockey Pro League 2022-23: India stuns world champion Germany 3-2 in maiden game post World Cup trouncing

Hockey Pro League 2022-23: India played its first match since losing in the pre-quarters of the World Cup a couple of months back. It went on to upset reigning world champion Germany 3-2.

Hockey Pro League 2022-23, IND vs GER: India stuns world champion Germany 3-2 in maiden game post FIH World Cup trouncing-ayh
First Published Mar 11, 2023, 10:17 AM IST

Striker Sukhjeet Singh struck a second-half brace as India stunned reigning world champion Germany 3-2 in the 2022-23 FIH Pro League hockey, its first outing after the World Cup debacle at the Birsa Munda International Hockey Stadium in Rourkela on Friday. The 26-year-old Sukhjeet, one of the players who survived the axe after India's shock pre-quarterfinal exit in the World Cup in January, scored in the 31st and 42nd minutes, both goals coming from field efforts.

His captain Harmanpreet Singh, joint top-scorer in the tournament so far, had given the home side the lead in the 30th minute through a penalty corner conversion at the Birsa Munda Stadium. Harmanpreet had also flopped big time during the World Cup held here and in Bhubaneswar as he had struggled to find the target from his drag flick in the big matches in the showpiece.

India was 3-0 up in the 42nd minute before Paul-Philipp Kaufmann and Michel Struthoff struck for Germany in the 44th and 57th minutes, respectively. The Germans, who came with several players from their World Cup-winning team, struggled to score from the penalty corners. They got six PCs against four of India.

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The visitors got off to a strong start with five back-to-back PCs in the 10th minute, but India held their nerves to defend all of them. Striker Abhishek's efforts in the circle in the later part of the second quarter finally brought the momentum India was vying for. Up until then, stray attempts by strikers Gurjant Singh and Dilpreet Singh -- both got into the team after missing the World Cup -- in the initial minutes of the game were put away by German keeper Alexander Stadler.

Abhishek's quick thinking in his tackle to surge ahead inside the striking circle forced a German infringement that earned the home team its first PC of the match just before half-time. Harmanpreet, who was retained as captain despite the sacking of head coach Graham Reid after the World Cup, was top-class in his attempt, picking up a good injection by Hardik Singh to fiercely put it away into the right corner of the post, giving India the much-needed 1-0 lead.

The lead was shot in the arm for India's attack as they built on it in the third quarter. A brilliant pass by Jarmanpreet Singh from the 25m mark, slicing into the circle to find a perfect deflection by Sukhjeet, fetched India its second goal in the first minute after the resumption.

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About 11 minutes later, Sukhjeet struck again. Manpreet Singh powered a long pass from the midfield to the striking circle, which was picked up well by the talented youngster S Karthi who then assisted Sukhjeet to score his second goal of the match and India's third against a formidable German defence.

Apart from stitching together good attacks, with the midfield and forward line in sync, India made some smart referrals that kept the German attack at bay. The visitors, though, managed a goal just before the end of the third quarter when Elian Mazkour set up Paul-Philipp Kaufmann to score. India showcased some superb deep defending in the match's final moments, with Germany pulling out their goalkeeper and adding an extra man to their attack.

Always known to finish well, Germany tucked in a goal with just over two minutes left for the final hooter. It was Hannes Muller who set up the goal for Michel Struthoff. The action didn't end there, with India being awarded a penalty stroke in the match's dying seconds, but Harmanpreet couldn't convert it. But India eventually held on to the 3-2 lead and earned three points.

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Harmanpreet was shown a yellow card in the fifth minute and Germany's Tom Grambusch in the 10th minute. With the recently-appointed head coach Craig Fulton yet to join the team, David John was at the helm on Friday, a job he is also expected to do in the next three matches.

Following its World Cup debacle, India has dropped senior players Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh and Amit Rohidas, while goalkeeper Krishan Pathak also missed due to his wedding. India faces Australia on Sunday and Germany again in the second leg on Monday.

(With inputs from PTI)

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