Despite frittering away scores of chances, India rallied to eke out a laborious 3-2 victory over Canada in its second Pool C match of the junior hockey World Cup at the National Stadium here on Saturday. The host, with three points from this thriller, needs to win its final pool engagement against Korea to make it to the last eight.
Against one of the fittest sides in the tournament, India needed to seize the initiative and maintain pressure throughout. Instead, it invited trouble by letting Canada gain the advantage in the third minute.
Pradeep Mor failed to clear the ball, which rebounded off the right post and allowed Sukhi Panesar to cash in. It was a vital breakthrough for Canada. For India, the unexpected goal was like a mountain on its head.
The ruffled host hit back with an array of aggressive moves. But the rival wall was too strong to breach. Led by the towering Gordon Johnston, the Canadian defenders moved fast, closed the gaps and cleared the ball swiftly.
The Indians showed signs of nerve and fumbled in their passing and receiving. The forwards rushed through their shots on several occasions and messed up at least two fine scoring opportunities.
India’s persistence paid off after an anxious and painstaking wait of 27 minutes. Mandeep Singh deflected in an Amit Rohidas flick off the team’s third penalty corner and the host took a much needed break with honours shared.
Johnston (51st) converted Canada’s first short corner, but a stunning goal from Akashdeep Singh (57th) levelled matters. In a sensational conclusion, which involved video referrals, Gurjinder Singh scored the winner from a 69th minute penalty corner.
Pakistan received a setback after being routed 6-1 by Germany. After conceding three goals within the first 18 minutes, the Asian team’s woes were compounded when Muhammad Arslan Qadir received a red card for elbowing a German player in the 23rd minute.
Belgium and the Netherlands too recorded wins to virtually seal their quarterfinal spots.
The results: Pool A: Belgium 5 (Alexander Hendrickx 38, 51, 66, Mathew Cobbaert 48 & 54) bt Egypt 0; Germany 6 (Christopher Ruhr 2, 18, 26; Lukas Windfeder 10; Alexander Schollkopf 59; Niklas Bruns 69) bt Pakistan 1 (Shakeel Ammad Butt 70+).
Pool C: The Netherlands 3 (Thierry Brinkman 4, Tristan Algera 25, Milan van Baal 39) bt Korea 2 (Inwoo Seo 17, Seungju You 27); India 3 (Mandeep Singh 30, Akashdeep Singh 57, Gurjinder 69) bt Canada 2 (Sukhi Panesar 3, Gordon Johnston 51).
Sunday’s matches: Australia vs Spain (2 p.m.); Argentina vs France (4 p.m.); South Africa vs Malaysia (6 p.m.); New Zealand vs England (8 p.m.).