SPORT

Debatable decisions mar India's chance of a medal

Korea 11 Egypt 0

New Zealand 2 India 1

ATHENS, AUG. 21. India's chances of a medal vanished into thin air, and the grim reality of finishing between the ninth and 12th places emerged when New Zealand, taking advantage of debatable penalty corners decisions after regulation time, slotted the match-winner through Hayden Shaw in a Pool `B' encounter of the Olympic men's hockey competition here on Saturday. Neither side had scored in the first half. Three defeats in four outings were unthinkable for a squad under preparation for months, including training in the United States, Holland and Germany. A victory today would have possibly improved the image at least of a team now trained by a foreign coach.

Strange decision

It was strange for umpire O'Connor to reverse his decision after signalling the ball out from the penalty corner exercise outside the regulation time. But he did, prompted by the Spanish umpire Abdel, who pointed out that the shot taken by Shaw had grazed the foot of a defender. Two more penalty corners at this point ended in a disaster for India.

Psyching themselves with a Maori war dance at the start, the Kiwis were better programmed to tackle every emerging situation. True, there were moments of flourish whenever Deepak Thakur or Dhanraj Pillay surged in but the team lacked a pattern or harmony in any of the layers. Individually, Viren Resquinha and Vikram Pillay strove manfully to keep up the tempo but the frontline, minus Pillay, was innocuous. Gagan Ajit Singh, the main striker, was almost invisible for the major part.

The Kiwis were content to play defensively and make an occasional foray. Mitesh Patel on the right troubled the inconsistent defence. India had a few openings. And the one that Pillay provided for Gagan Ajit was not taken advantage of. Gagan's shot was easily padded by goal-keeper Woolford.

An opportunistic strike by Phil Burrows off an adroit pass from Simon Towns shortly after the break put New Zealand ahead. Pressured by the development, the Indians did accelerate but were not constructive enough. A solo effort and a backhander by Deepak Thakur did queer the pitch but the ball was off target. However, India levelled eight minutes before the hooter, with a neat penalty corner variation. Arjun Halappa flicked the ball and Pillay gave the finishing touches.

New Zealand earned its third penalty corner seconds before the final hooter. It stretched beyond regulation time. Hayden Shaw's shot rolled over and umpire O'Connor signalled out and the game should have ended there.

But Abdel indicated that the ball had touched a defender. O'Connor reversed his decision with another penalty corner amidst protest from the players. Adrian D'Souza rushed forward to save the shot by Shaw, falling down and inviting another penalty corner from which Hayden Shaw pumped in a goal. Even as the Kiwis savoured the moment, the Indians walked out distressed.

Protest rejected

The protest lodged by India with a fee of Euros 500 against the award of a penalty corner by umpire O'Connor, was rejected by the Technical Delegate, Wiert Doyer, of the Netherlands.

Citing Rule 13.4 of Rules of Hockey 2004 to the effect that the match is prolonged full time to allow for the completion of the penalty corner, or any subsequent penalty corner is completed (a) a goal is scored (b) an attacker commits an offence (c) the ball travels more than five metres outside the circle (d) the ball travels outside the circle for the second time (e) the ball is played over the backline and a penalty corner is not awarded (f) a defender commits an offence which does not result in another penalty corner (g) a penalty stroke is awarded.

Doyer said, "I have concluded that incidents a, b, c, f, and g did not occur as the ball went over the backline and did not travel outside the second line. The ball was played over the backline and signalled as such by umpire O'Connor. However, a penalty corner was awarded following the advice of umpire Abdel. Accordingly I have determined that the match remained prolonged, as none of the circumstances set out in Rule 13.4 had occurred. The subsequent penalty corner occurred during the match and the decision to award the goal was a decision of an umpire during the match.

"I am firmly of the view that the match had not ended. Accordingly, Regulation 18.4 prohibits me from considering the protest,'' he said in a statement on the issue.

Korea routs Egypt

Earlier, Korea overwhelmed Egypt in a pool `A' match in which Jung Ha Jeon (2), Jung Seon Lee (4), Song Tae Seung (3), Hyo Sik Yon and Jong Ho Seo scored. Korea has seven points from four matches.