SANDEEP Singh scores a brace, including the winner, as the host remains unbeaten
In a performance that will remain etched forever in the memory of Indian hockey fans, the host side pipped Canada 3-2 in an action-filled thriller of an Olympic qualifier match at the National Stadium here on Wednesday.
The Indian team put on an extra-ordinary show that will not only boost the players' confidence, but will also do a world of good for the future of the sport in the country.
India, undefeated so far, notched up its fourth consecutive win to gather 12 points, and has virtually booked a place in the final of the qualification event.
Sandeep Singh struck a brace while Shivendra Singh slotted in one goal in India's impressive endeavour. Mark Pearson and Scott Tupper scored for Canada.
The keenly-fought contest, packed with highly energetic performances from both the sides, really got the adrenalin flowing. For the first time in the tournament, India went without scoring in the opening 25 minutes of the match. Yet, the action was gripping.
Thanks to the enhanced fitness level of the Indians, they could withstand the pressure that was physically draining and mentally exhausting.
The skilful linkmen, led by the superb Sardar Singh, and the incisive frontline, consisting of some brilliant performers, jelled well to keep the Canadian defenders busy. When the rival strikers made their moves the Indian defenders rose to the challenge.
Indian forwards' enterprise bore fruit in the 26th minute when the young S.K. Uthappa fired in a cross from the left and Shivendra Singh shook off his challengers inside the circle to put India up.
The home side attacked with more vigour after changing the ends. Canadian goalkeeper, Antoni Kindler, came forward to prevent two fine attempts from S.V. Sunil and Sarvanjit Singh.
However, Sandeep, making the most of the team's second short corner, beat the rival custodian with a low flick.
Canada bounced back with two quick goals. Pearson banked on a defensive lapse inside the circle to reduce the margin, while Tupper made use of a penalty corner to score the equaliser.
Amid moments of heated exchanges between players of both sides, Sandeep spectacularly slammed in a fast flick along the carpet to convert India's fourth short corner and trigger wild celebrations in the stands.
France defeated Italy 3-0, while Poland outclassed Singapore 11-3 to keep their hopes alive.
Thursday is a rest day in both men and women tournaments.
Poland 11 (Szymon Oszyjczyk 9, 59, 63, Michal Nowakowski 24, Miroslaw Juszczak 35, Mateusz Poltasewski 40, 64, Bartosz Zywiczka 50, Artur Mikula 54, Tomasz Gorny 56, Waldemar Rataj 58) bt Singapore 3 (Farhan Kamsani 37, 49, Fazri Jailani 70).
France 3 (Arnaud Becuwe 43, Martin Genestet 52, Frederic Verrier 57) bt Italy 0.
India 3 (Shivendra Singh 26, Sandeep Singh 40, 61) bt Canada 2 (Mark Pearson 50, Scott Tupper 53).