New Delhi, 7 December 2013: The hosts India managed to beat Canada by 3-2 in their 2nd Pool game of Hero Hockey Junior World Cup 2013 to keep themselves alive and kicking in the tournament (Points Table & Results here).
Excited at the last minutes twist in the game against Canada, Gregg Clark, Coach of the Indian team said, “We got the victory at the end but we dominated throughout the game. It is always a worrying factor for any team and the coach when the team misses crucial chances. We could have been lot more accurate in position 23 and D – certainly an area we need to analyse closely. There were lot of positives out of this game as well. We tried to play with lot more speed today but there were moments when we needed to be more controlled.”
The adrenalin rush was at its peak in the eventful match. Both the teams were under pressure to win in order to keep a chance to make it through to the quarter-finals after losing their respective opening match. India were possibly under additional pressure to perform in front of the home crowd and were immediately put on the back foot by some bold Canadian attacks. The very vocal crowd was silenced in the 3rd minute when Canadian captain Sukhi Panesar collected a rebound from the post to slot it in goal.
That of course triggered an immediate reaction from the Indian players and they pushed forward to besiege the Canadian goal. Play stayed confined in the Canadian 25m for a while, but the Indian forwards were too much in a hurry and rushed many of their actions, missing the final touch on goal.
Kevin Pereira, in goal for Canada today, saw plenty of action and stood his ground superbly, frustrating some of the Indian attempts from close range. India had a series of penalty-corners but Pereira saved the first one and the second went wide. Canada were still clinging to their lead in the 30th minute, when Mandeep Singh was finally on target on a penalty-corner option to tie the score going into the break.
Both teams had chances early in second period, with a crossbar saving Canada on the first Indian action. The young Canadians were however playing much better than in their opening match against Korea, revelling in the fiery atmosphere and the fast and furious pace.
India were unable to penetrate the compact Canadian defense and were equally unsuccessful on a penalty-corner. Canada were more efficient at the other end and Gordon Johnston silenced the crowd again on their first penalty-corner of the match to regain the lead in the 51st minute.
This was not the scenario that India were expecting and frustration started to show. They tied the score in the 57th minute with a sneaky deflection by Akashdeep Singh, but the crowd wanted more from the local boys, setting the stage for a torrid end of match.
Both teams threw caution to the wind in the final minutes of play, with action flowing rapidly from one end to the other. Canada were saved once more by a desperate save by Kevin Pereira, but had to concede defeat in the final minute on a penalty-corner earned from a video-referral and dutifully converted by Gurjinder Singh.
India earned the 3 points for the win but certainly did not reassure their fans on their potential in this competition, while the Canadians were able to leave the pitch with their heads high after an excellent display, rewarded by the Man of the Match Award going to their goal-keeper Kevin Pereira.
Aaron Guest, coach of the Canada team said, “I think we were very unlucky today to concede a goal in the last two minutes of the match that was so close. It is really tough to play a good team in front of home crowd and Indians are a very good team. Yes we were disappointed. Both teams had their chances and our goal keeper played very well. We will be competitive and give ourselves a chance to win in the next match.