Hat-trick hero Harmanpreet Singh dominated the battle of the set-piece in the FIH Pro League match at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Sunday. His triple strike helped India beat England 4-3 in the second match of the doubleheader after the home side took a bonus point after a draw in the first on Saturday.
The first of Harmanpreet’s goals brought up his 100th international goal and, when the drag-flicker par excellence was done for the day, he consolidated his spot at the top of the scorer’s list with 14. Harmanpreet’s stellar show also brought him a second successive player-of-the-match award and his exploits helped India take a four-point lead over Germany at the top of the nine-nation table.
All seven goals on the day came from penalty corners and all but one quarter – the last— was devoid of scoring.
England, who forced the shootout in the first match with a goal seconds from the end, did all but produce an encore as they attacked with 11 outfield players after pulling out James Mazarelo who stepped in for the brilliant Oliver Payne.
Like the first encounter, England shot into the lead through an unlikely source – Liam Sanford scoring his first international goal with a deflection off Nicholas Bandurak’s wide drag-flick in the seventh minute.
A soft penalty corner conceded helped India restore parity by paying England back with their own coin – Manpreet Singh, the former captain, picking up the rebound from the goalkeeper’s pads to score his 23rd international goal and the first in over two years on the dot of first-quarter time.
Harmanpreet then took centre-stage with a low drag-flick to the left of Mazarelo on 25 minutes to make it 2-1 and bring up his “century” in his 141st international.
The sturdy defender followed that with another low drag-flick to Mazarelo’s right in the next minute and India were in the driver’s seat with a 3-1 lead.
After Mazarelo foiled Jugraj Singh at a penalty corner, England clawed their way back into the match with three successive penalty corners. The visitors rewarded themselves from the third penalty corner in the sequence when Sam Ward’s drag-flick found David Condon stretching out to get a touch past Kishan Pathak and pull one back at 2-3 with 38 minutes gone. But another penalty corner came India’s way and Harmanpreet utilized a deceptive flick to squeeze the ball between the left corner of the goal and a bewildered goalkeeper in the 42nd minute.
However, the match had plenty more to offer and England obliged by rattling up their third goal with two minutes to go for three-quarter-time. It came through masked assassin Ward who scored his 85th goal in 145 internationals with another low drag-flick to the right of the goalkeeper.
A flurry of green cards – two to each team — and a yellow to Manpreet marked a tentative fourth quarter as England chased the game.
Mazarelo was withdrawn with a shade under four minutes left but India’s lines held firm to seal and endorse three points from an outright win.
Twenty-one points from 10 matches see India take a four-point lead over Germany who have played eight matches and will be in Bhubaneswar on April 14 and 15 for another doubleheader.
The Netherlands are 16 from six at third spot while England, who play Germany on May 4 and 5, have seven from six at seventh.