India stormed into the men’s hockey final with a 3-2 victory over South Africa in the semi-final at the University of Birmingham Hockey and Squash Centre on Saturday.
This is the third time India have reached the summit clash of the Commonwealth Games after ending with silver at Delhi 2010 and Glasgow 2014, losing the final to Australia both times. India will face the winner of the other semi-final between Australia—winners of all six editions of the CWG tournament—and England on Monday.
India, who had won both their Pro League matches against South Africa in February at Potchefstroom, dominated play from the start and forced five penalty corners in the first quarter, but South Africa goalkeeper Gowan Jones was having a brilliant day, saving all five attempts.
India finally broke the deadlock in the 20th minute when Akashdeep burst through the South African midfield and passed to newcomer Abhishek, who made his debut earlier this year. He got the ball inside the D and thwacked in a stunning goal with a reverse hit from the edge of the circle.
India had to wait for another eight minutes before Mandeep Singh doubled the lead. On the counterattack, Gurjant passed a brilliant long ball to Mandeep, who dodged a couple of South African defenders to put India 2-0 ahead going into half-time.
If not for Jones, India would have scored many more goals. He saved more India attempts in the second quarter.
India pressed hard from the start of the second half but it was South Africa who scored on a counterattack in the 33rd minute via a penalty corner. Matthew Guise-Brown’s flick was saved by the experienced goalie PR Sreejesh but the rebound went straight to Ryan Julius, who put it in.
Despite being up 2-1 and knowing the seriousness of the final quarter, India did not remove Sreejesh from the goal—coach Graham Reid alternates goalkeepers in every quarter—which made the difference as India did not concede anymore goal to win the contest.
South Africa were down to 10 players in the last three minutes and Jugraj Singh (58th) made it 3-1 off a penalty corner. But South Africa’s Mustapha Cassiem pulled one back after Sreejesh let the ball slip into the goal. It finished that way.
Women lose to Australia in shootouts
Earlier on Friday, the Indian women’s team suffered a heartbreak after Australia edged past them 3-0 in the shootout to snatch victory in the semi-final. The Savita Punia-led team fought valiantly in regulation time which ended 1-1 but could not convert any of their attempts in the shootout. Ambrosia Malone, Amy Lawton and Kaitlin Nobbs scored for Australia. Rebecca Greiner (10th) gave Australia the lead before Vandana Katariya (49th) equalised for India. Controversy broke out at the start of the shootout when Punia saved Ambrosia’s first attempt. But the save didn’t count as the stopwatch had not started because of which the attempt was taken again, resulting in a goal. India face New Zealand in the bronze medal match on Sunday.
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