FIH Pro League: Gurjant’s last-gasp winner helps India edge past Ireland 1-0

Bhubaneswar, Feb 16 – Gurjant Singh’s last-gasp winner helped India end the Bhubaneswar leg of the FIH Hockey Pro League 2023/24 with a narrow 1-0 win over Ireland at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium on Friday. Gurjant Singh (60′) was the lone goalscorer in the match. India started the match on the front foot, making inroads with a structured attack. They earned their first penalty corner of the match in the third minute, but Harmanpreet’s drag-flick was saved by the Irish defender near the post.

Ireland gradually settled in and had a better share of ball possession in the opening quarter. However, they couldn’t create much of a danger as the Indian defence kept them away from the goal. Their first real chance came in the 11th minute, but Matthew Nelson’s shot went wide of the goalpost.

India, on the other hand, had an underwhelming start as they kept losing the ball in the midfield, failing to create spaces in the Irish circle, ending the opening quarter at 0-0. It was a quiet start to the second quarter as both teams probed each other’s defence but were unable to find an opening. India had better ball possession for the majority of the second quarter.

They created potential goalscoring chances and earned as many as two penalty corners in the 20th and 24th minutes respectively, but a disciplined Irish defence denied the hosts from scoring, thus ending the first half at a 0-0 stalemate.

The third quarter mirrored a familiar tale, with India dominating the ball possession, but failing to create spaces inside the Irish circle. They almost broke the deadlock in the 33rd minute, but Akashdeep’s goal was overturned as Mandeep made a foul on the Irish goalie. However, they continued with the same intent and created various goalscoring opportunities, but the Irish defence was up to the mark to keep the scoreline 0-0 at the end of the third quarter.

India showcased urgency at the start of the final quarter and immediately earned a penalty corner, but Harmanpreet’s drag-flick was denied by the Irish goalie. They again had a penalty corner in the 51st minute but couldn’t avail the opportunity. In the following minute, Rabichandra Moirangthem gave Ireland their first penalty corner of the match with a stick tackle just outside the circle.

Their first attempt found the foot of the Indian first rusher and were awarded a penalty corner. They came close to scoring, but Indian goalie P.R Sreejesh made a stunning goalmouth save to deny Ireland from taking the lead. India kept piling pressure on the Irish defence and their efforts paid off in the 60th minute as the hosts finally broke the deadlock through Gurjant’s field goal.

Hardik Singh managed to play the ball inside the crowded Irish circle, which was well received by the Gurjant, who powered the ball into the net through the Irish goalie’s legs, ensuring India’s 1-0 win. The Indian men’s hockey team will now move to Rourkela to play their return fixtures of the FIH Hockey Pro League. India will face Spain in their first match of the Rourkela leg on Monday.

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