Ireland did the unthinkable when the Green Machines rolled over India for a 3-2 victory in the last preliminary round match of the 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Men’s Hockey Tournament in Ipoh today.
It was Ireland’s, ranked 10th in the world, first win in the tournament and that too against the the World No 6.
India went into the match eyeing a big win against Ireland who are already out of the race following four consecutive defeats.They needed a win and hope for England and Malaysia draw their match later in the evening to make the final.
Australians had earlier in the day beaten reigning Olympics champions Argentina 3-1 and India was harboring hopes of making an unlikely final appearance. All that was dashed by Ireland.
The result left India and Ireland on four and three points respectively.
Sardar Singh led a confident India against the Irish with the steady Suraj Karkera in the goal. And 10 minutes into the match, India lived up to their favourite tag when Ramandeep Singh put India ahead 1-0 from their first penalty corner.
The Irish were aggressive in the second quarter and equalised through Shane O’Donoghue who packed the ball past Suraj in the 24th minute off a cross from Kirk Shimmins.
But the Indians were back on their feet moments later following a third penalty corner in the 26th minute and Amit Rohidas placed the ball in the roof of the Irish net to lead 2-1.
The Irish continued the push with 48 seconds remaining in the quarter and earned their first penalty corner but O’Donoghue’s flick was stopped by goalkeeper Suraj.
Ireland shocked their far more illustrious opponents in the third quarter. They equalised in the 36th minute through Sean Murray’s field goal strike and went 3-2 ahead for the first time via a Lee Cole penalty corner conversion in the 42nd minutes.
Things are certainly not going right for Sjoerd Marijne’s Indian youngsters. The Green Machines got stronger as the match progressed and played with a greater level of confidence.
India’s forwards made several forays inside the Irish penalty corner circle in the last quarter but were denied of any real shots. They earned a fourth penalty corner with six minutes remaining but Ramandeep’s flick was cleared.
Desperate for goals, India played with a kicking back in the last three minutes of the match. They earned their fifth penalty corner with no sign of the equaliser.
The result also confirms that both Ireland and India will once again play each other in tomorrow’s 5th/6th playoff match.
WHAT THEY SAID:
Craig Fulton (Ireland Head Coach):
Throughout the whole tournament we have been asking for improvement from the players in every game. You defend well and take your chances anything can happen. It wasn’t a great game, a lot of turnovers and at the end of the day I am glad we stayed close.
It scores didn’t move far away from us in the first half and then we had to play harder to get back into the game. There is quality in every quarter when we were just separated by one goal.
We had an injury with one player needing stitches, and another vomiting on the bench. A player was also suspended. We did that with 13 players at one stage. So, it was crazy but a good game for us.
This is the first time Ireland had beaten India if I can recall in an international test match. We have drawn before but not actually got a win over them.
I am not even worried about tomorrow (5th/6th playoff) as it will come. I am happy for the guys that we have been progressing in this tournament. Four games we have lost with good performance and in the fifth game was sheer rewarding.
Sjoerd Marijne (India Head Coach)
The progress we have been making in this tournament has been good. We have been playing every match better and better and today we took a deep step back. I know that happens when a team does not play a lot together.
We have a lot of inexperienced players. I can’t blame the team. Those things happen. We must talk about ourselves in preparations. Today the level (scale between 1-10) just dropped and that sometimes happens.
We don’t want that. We want to be consistent and today we were just not consistent. There are moments like today we need players to take the lead. And if a lot player doesn’t increase their level it is going to be difficult to organise. But today too many players dropped their level to five or four.
I don’t think Ireland controlled the game so much today. We made Ireland look better and we gave them more confidence in the match. In the beginning we were leading. It was because of the many errors we made they capitalised on it.