Five different players found the back of the net for the Men in Blue.

The Indian men’s hockey team began their FIH Hockey Pro League 2021/22 campaign with a comprehensive 5-0 win over France here in Potchefstroom on Tuesday. The Manpreet-led side’s first win of 2022 was sealed by goals from Harmanpreet Singh (21′), Varun Kumar (24′), Shamsher Singh (28′), Mandeep Singh (32′) and Akashdeep Singh (41′)   

India went on an attacking mode right from the word go, putting pressure on the French defence. The World No. 3 side had their first opening in the initial minutes when Harmanpreet’s pass from the middle of the pitch found Nilakanta in good space, but his flick from the centre of the circle went flying above the goal post. Minutes later, India again got yet another chance to draw the first blood, but France’s defence nullified the attack. The Indians continued to pile on the attacking moves and earned back-to-back Penalty Corners after nearly 10 minutes. However attempts by debutant Jugraj were denied by the French goalkeeper Arthur Thieffry, thus ending the first quarter of the FIH Pro League game 0-0. 

India looked more dangerous in the second quarter, with the forward line making dangerous penetrating runs inside the opposition’s circle. Their efforts paid off as India won the third PC in the 21st minute of the match, which was beautifully converted by the Vice-Captian Harmanpreet. Having taken control of the proceedings, India went on to take a 2-0 lead, courtesy of PC conversion from Varun in the 23rd minute. France, regaining some strength, went on to win a PC in the 28th, but the Indian defence stood tall to deny them a goal and a quick counterattack from India led by Nilakanta and Shamsher put India in the driver’s seat. Nilakanta’s pass to the downfield found Shamsher in the right spot, who calmly nicked into the back of the nets, making the scoreline 3-0 at the end of half-time of the FIH Pro League encounter. 

The third quarter started in a similar fashion, with India enjoying the possession and making moves in France’s half. Mandeep went on to add the 4th goal in just the second minute of the third quarter. Desperately looking for a goal, France regained some strength to keep India’s attack at bay. They had slightly better possession in the latter stage of the third quarter. However, a mistake from the French Captain inside the circle gave Akashdeep a golden opportunity to mark his 200th appearance with a well-deserved goal. The veteran forward added India’s 5th goal to the tally in the 41st minute. 

Trying to look for an opportunity, France started the final quarter aggressively and themselves back-to-back Penalty Corners in the initial minutes. However, the Indian goalkeeper Krishan Pathak stood tall to deny France their first goal. The latter stage of the final quarter saw some end-to-end action, with India slowing down the proceedings to ensure a comprehensive 5-0 win in the FIH Pro League encounter. 

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