Bajwa Praises GK Coach Shahid Ali
By Sundeep Misra

Pakistan coach Asif Bajwa gave full credit to his goalkeeper coach, former Pakistan goalkeeper Shahid Ali Khan for the 4-3 victory over Olympic Champions Australia in the Rabo Trophy.

Speaking after the win over Australia, Bajwa said that Pakistan had a bad first half which Australia dominated. “But we came back strongly in the second half and scored some good goals. I am thankful that Salman Akbar (goalkeeper) had a fantastic match and we were able to keep the scoreline at 4-3 till the end of the match.”

Incidentally, all the three coaches, chief coach Asif Bajwa, assistant coach Rana Mujahid and goalkeeping coach Shahid Ali Khan were part of the team that last won a final in Holland. In 1992, Pakistan had beaten Holland in the final of the BMW Cup.

Speaking on the future of the team after the win here, both Bajwa and Rana Mujahid said that Champions Trophy was not their target. “We are looking at doing well in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, “ said Rana Mujahid. “That is our real target and not the Champions Trophy in Chennai.”

Bajwa said that the team had been experimenting in Hamburg in the 4-nation Masters and also here in Amstelveen. “It will take us a little time before we final arrive on the final 20-24 players that will figure for the 2006 World Cup. Of course, we take a break and then we reassemble with a new programme.”

Shahid Ali Khan, the goalkeeping coach said that the programme for the goalkeepers was aimed at making them the best goalkeepers in the world. “The Europeans have always been good in that department and now we are striving to be the best. Salman was very good against Australia in the final and we all hope he can keep improving his level of play.”

Pakistan Are Rabo Champions
By Sundeep Misra

Pakistan produced an exemplary display of skills to shock Olympic Champions Australia 4-3 and win the Rabo Trophy Hockey Tournament here at the Waegner Stadium on Sunday.

For Pakistan, Mudassar Ali was the match winner scoring Pakistan’s fourth goal in the 51st minute.

Pakistan, who fought back twice from being in arrears, scored through Imran Warsi (24th), Adnan Zakir (32nd), Rehan Butt (42nd) and Mudassar Ali (51st).

Australia took the lead in the 17th minute through Travis Brooks (17th), Grant Schubert (32nd) and Ben Bishop (34th).

Pakistan coach Asif Bajwa, who was lifted on the shoulders of the Pakistan fans, said, “It’s a victory that should mark the return of Pakistan to top flight hockey. We attacked through the tournament and played with five forwards and I am glad that paid off.”

Barry Dancer, the Australian coach, was effusive in his praise of Pakistan and said that they converted their chances and deserved to win the final.

“We will have to see where we made the mistakes so that such a performance in a final is not repeated,” said Dancer.

Playing their second final after winning the Olympic gold in Athens, Australia looked tentative. In the earlier final in June, the Azlan Shah Tournament in Kuala Lumpur, they had chased the balls down right from the start and still found themselves staring at a 1-3 deficit which they later turned and won the final against South Korea.

But after the initial prodding and testing the waters in the Pakistan half, Australia in a sudden burst of energy produced the move that gave them the lead. Travis Brooks shot in a fluent goal in the 17th minute.

Pakistan who were using the ball skills of Shakeel Abassi on the right flank to good effect earned a penalty corner in the 24th minute. Imran Warsi’s flick equalized the scores at 1-1, to the joy of the Pakistan supporters.

Slowly the rythmn returned in the ranks of the Australian forwards and a break from the right gave Grant Schubert and opportunity to show his skills. Trapping the ball with his back to the Pakistan goal, on top of the circle, he turned to his right and sent a reverse shot that beat Salman Akbar in the Pakistan goal. Australia had the lead in the 32nd minute.

Shakeel Abbasi, all the while threatening the Aussies with his runs down the flank produced a move of absolute class. Abbasi, in the 32nd minute of the match, ran down the right flank, past three Aussie defenders before releasing the ball into the middle of the circle where Adnan Zakir jabbed in for Pakistan’s second equalizer at 2-2.

Two minutes later, Australia were a trifle lucky in having Ben Bishop unmarked in front of the Pakistan goal where the Australian picked up a penalty corner rebound and tapped in to give Australia a 3-2 lead before the teams walked off at the break.

Pakistan coach Asif Bajwa kept shuffling his forwards and it paid off when he brought in Rehan Butt from his customary position as right-out to play as striker. In the 42nd minute, Rehan trapped a cross from the right, turned to his right, back to the goal, and unleashed a reverse shot that sped past Australian goalkeeper Stephen Lambert.
With the scores locked at 3-3, Pakistan were threatening to fight every inch of the way. A clearly rattled Australia were making errors, especially in the defence.

Pakistan shot into the lead for the first time in the match in the 51st minute. Mudassar Ali Khan found himself staring at Stephen Lambert in the Australian goal after trapping a cross from the right. Khan’s shot went through Lambert’s legs as Pakistan rode on a wave of confidence.

With three minutes left in the match, Pakistan’s Adnan Maqsood was shown the yellow card as Pakistan played with ten men.

Australia had a chance to equalize when they earned a penalty corner in the last minute but failed to convert.

Spain Beat Korea, Win Bronze
By Sundeep Misra

Champions Trophy winners, Spain would consider themselves lucky to be wearing the Rabo Trophy bronze medal after beating South Korea 2-1 in the 3rd/4th play-off match here at the Waegner Stadium on Sunday.

Spain both their goals through penalty corner flicks by Santi Freixa. South Korea’s goal came in the dying minutes, 65th minute, when Yoon after a show of brilliant stick-work by Jong Hyun Jang, tapped the ball past Herrera.

Herrera Bernardino’s brilliant goalkeeping kept away the South Korean strikes from within the circle as well as penalty corners flicks. The Koreans playing at a fast pace kept the Spanish midfield and the defence constantly guessing. The Korean forward line interchanged positions and would have been at least two goals up but for Herrera’s brilliance in the Spanish goal.

One one occasion, he saved three consecutive shots from the Koreans. If there was a mistake in the Korean approach to the bronze medal match, it was in the way they took the penalty corner shots. Almost all of them were directed to the goalkeeper thus making his job a little easier. But the field attempts were all brilliant saves.

With four minutes to go for the break, Spain got their first goal against the run of play. A counter-attack led to the Spanish forwards racing through and earning a penalty corner. Freixa’s flick was into the corner but it hit a Korean defenders stick and deflected into goal.

At the break, Spain led 1-0.

The Koreans played with the same energy as in the first half and as the half progressed it became clear that the battle was between the Spanish goalkeeper Herrera and the Koreans ability to score past him.

Till Freixa scored his second in the 57th minute, Herrera was keeping the Koreans away.

Freixa’s second goal off a penalty corner was more fluent than the first, the ball speeding low into the corner, past the outstretched pad of Korean goalkeeper Sik Dong Ko.

The match came back to life when Jong Hyun dribbled in from the right flank and went past four Spanish defenders before placing the ball in front of Yoo whose tap went in past the Spanish goalkeeper. Herrera had been beaten for the first time in the match.

Korea had another penalty corner in the last minute but the Spanish defended it off.

With the bronze medal, Spain’s confidence would have got a boost, a week before the European Championships kick off in Leipzig.

Taekema Fires Holland Past Germany
By Sundeep Misra

Powered by three goals from Taeke Taekema, Hosts Holland, finally, gave something to their fans at the Waegner Stadium to shout about when they beat World Champions Germany 5-0 to finish 5th in the Rabo Bank Hockey Tournament on Saturday. Germany take the sixth spot.

Holland, winners at the Hamburg Masters a few days before the Rabo Trophy kicked off, experienced a sudden dip in form losing to South Korea, Australia and then drawing with England.

Against Germany in the play-offs, today, there was more polish and assuredness in the Dutch play. With four goals coming from penalty corners, including a hat-trick from Taeke Taekema, Holland were constantly on the pressure.

Germany did try and and come back into the match but with the Dutch goals coming regularly, the pressure never eased up for the Germans to make a concerted effort to cut the deficit.

Taeke Taekema scored in the 25th, 44th and 54th minutes. Roderick Weusthof scored off a penalty corner and then with just nine seconds left in the match, Floris Evers jabbed one past the German goalkeeper.

Ending on a positive note was important for the Dutch as they now prepare for next week’s European Championship in Leipzig.

Chetri Stars In Indian Win
By Sundeep Misra

India managed to stave off a last minute resurgence by England before walking away with a 2-1 victory that enabled India to finish seventh in the eight-nation Rabo Bank Hockey Tournament here on Saturday. It was India’s first win in the tournament after three consecutive losses in Pool A matches.

Just when it seemed that India would walk away with a 2-0 win, England cut the deficit in the 70th minute with their sixth penalty corner. And then forced another two in the dying seconds. Amidst rising tension in the Indian striking circle, the Indian defenders managed to keep away the indirect variations and eke out a win.

India should be grateful to goalkeeper Bharat Chetri, playing his first match in the Rabo Trophy, for some brilliant saves that kept India in the match.

For the Indian forwards, under fire from the coach Rajinder Singh, it was a welcome return to form. Gagan Ajit Singh and Deepak Thakur, unable to score through the tournament, managed a goal each.

India scored off their first penalty corner in the 31st minute when Dilip Tirkey’s direct hit was deflected in by Gagan Ajit Singh. Deepak Thakur added a second in the 53rd minute with a reverse shot. England cut the scores with a penalty corner flick by James Tindall.

India put in an improved show with the forwards showing more aggression in the opposition striking circle. Gagan Ajit Singh, who through the tournament appeared leaden footed, today, was seen picking up balls in the midfield and bolstering the attack with Deepak Thakur.

But the problems with the midfield and defence remained. England took advantage of the huge gaps in the middle to attack consistently. For India, the star of the match was Bharat Chetri who brought off some brilliant saves to ensure a win for India.

In the 19th and 23rd minutes, Chetri saved two penalty corners, throwing himself to the right and left.

In the second half, Chetri continued with his good form. In the 47th minute, he brought off the save of the match when Matt Daly sped into the circle, beating Kanwalpreet Singh. Daly’s shot was on target but Chetri came off the line and took it on the glove.

Deepak Thakur scored India’s second off a cross from Harpal Singh. Harpal’s cross intended for both Gagan and Deepak was picked up by Deepak who took a fierce reverse hit that beat the English goalkeeper on the line.

James Lindall’s heroics in the last minute almost snatched a equalizer for England after they had cut the scores to 1-2. But Chetri and luck was with India.

Spain Beat Germany

Champions Trophy winners Spain beat Germany 4-1 to be in contention for a place in the final of the Rabo Trophy being played at the Wagener stadium on Thursday.

Spain after three matches in Pool A are on seven points. If Spain are to be deprived off a place in the final then Pakistan needs to beat Germany by five goals on Friday.

Germany shocked Spain by taking the lead in the 48th minute after the first half had gone goalless.

Nico Sonnenschein despatching a chance in the Spanish striking circle past the Spanish goalkeeper.

But Spain worked themselves back and between the 54th and 70th minutes, hammered in four goals to outplay the inexperienced German side 4-1.

The scorers for Spain were Victor Sojo (54th), Santi Freixa (56th), Eduard Tubau (67th) and Albert Sala (70th).

Pakistan Beat India
By Sundeep Misra

India turned in another disappointing performance going down 1-3 to Pakistan in their third Pool A match at the Rabo Bank Hockey Tournamenthere at the Waegner Stadium on Thursday.

It was the third consecutive defeat for a listless Indian team that has failed to provide the spark in this eight-nation tournament.

Pakistan now have four points with a win and draw. While India are without a point having lost all three matches. They would now play-off for 7th-8th positions.

Pakistan scored through Muhammad Saqlain, Muhammad Imran and Shakeel Abassi. For India the scorer was Didar Singh.

Pakistan coach Asif Bajwa said that his team utilized the opportunities better than the Indians. “I had said before the match that the team that utilizes the chances would score and we were better in that department than the Indians.”

Indian coach Rajinder Singh Junior was disappointed that the Indians couldn’t come back in the second half. “We had a bad first half but the boys played a better second half and I thought that a draw would have been a fair result. If we had got a second goal then the match could have gone anyway.”

India started strongly and almost snatched the lead in the 4th minute when Kanwalpreet Singh converted the first penalty corner but the umpire ruled it out as the ball had risen before the Indian full back had taken the hit.

For almost five minutes, India had a good spell. The midfield had the space and moved the ball effectively. Viren Rasquinha’s break down the middle earning India their second penalty corner.

But Pakistan battled back, helped by some solid play by Muhammad Saqlain as the Indian defence wilted.

Penalty corners followed in the 9th, 13th and 14th minutes. It was off Pakistan’s third penalty corner in the 14th minute that saw the lead go Pakistan’s way. Devesh Chauhan took the flick on his glove but the rebound fell free and Muhammad Saqlain was in position to jab it in.

Mistakes in the defence continued as Pakistan probed and came close a couple of times.

Seeing the Indian forwards, especially, Deepak Thakur and Prabhjot Singh have no impact on the play or the Pakistan defence, coach Rajinder Singh, threw in Ravipal Singh and Didar Singh. But they were worse with Ravipal completely at sea at this level of competition. Leave alone dodge past a player, he couldn’t create parallel moves for the midfield.

Pakistan increased the lead in the 29th minute when they earned their fourth penalty corner. Muhammad Imran was on target with his team’s second goal. The Indians were clearly wilting and the body language was clearly one of desperation.

At the break, Pakistan led 2-0.

After the break, India raised their level of play, desperate to make amends for the lukewarm first half display.

Ignace Tirkey playing as centre-half raised Indian hopes as the ball started reaching the forwards who were inter-changing positions, making things difficult for the Pakistan defenders.

Didar Singh, playing on the right flank saw a few of his crosses zip past stretched Indian sticks in the Pakistan striking circle.

India held dominance and between the 46th and 56th minute earned three penalty corners. It was off the sixth in the 56th minute that Didar Singh saw his flick hit the outstretched glove of Pakistan goalkeeper Salman Akbar and reduce the margin for India.

Having cut the deficit to 1-2, India started moving up and for the first time in the match, started playing as a unit.

But as the minutes ticked away, Pakistan held the Indians away and off a counter-attack scored in the last minute through Shakeel Abassi who had been put through by Shabbir Hussain.

Pakistan now play Germany on Friday.

Pak Hold The Edge
By Sundeep Misra

Meet Pakistan’s young national coach Asif Bajwa and you shake hands with ‘attitude’.

And that’s how, in all probability, Pakistan will take on India in their Rabo Trophy Pool A match at the Wagener Stadium on Thursday – Play with attitude.

But spare a thought for our very own man from Jalandhar, Rajinder Singh Junior. Since the day, he was thrust into the job as India’s national coach; Rajinder must be thinking that a posting at Kargil would seem like a walk in a park. Aggression, flair, all seems to have deserted the Indian team since he took over just before the Azlan Shah hockey tournament in Kuala Lumpur.

Amstelveen was supposed to be different but now with two consecutive defeats, Rajinder’s team prepares for what could wipe the slate for him, clean him and the team off all their sins: A victory against Pakistan.

“Everything is possible,” he says, trying to rev up that conviction in his voice, like a Narain Karthikeyan wrestling with a Jordan, but failing. “The simple fact about our hockey is that if we attack and get the rhythm, not many teams can last.”

Since 2001, India and Pakistan have met four times at the Wagener Stadium in Amstelveen and India has turned up the magic only once when in a league match, on a sunny afternoon, at the 2003 Champions Trophy, India walloped Pakistan 7-4 after being 1-4 down at one stage. Rhythm, emotion, aggression, flair, skill, artistry, call it anything, came together in one brilliant fusion.

Critics and fans would classify that as a rare day. And truly, hockey fans in India and those around the world who love to see artistry or hockey being showcased in all its brilliant colours on an artificial pitch would want more of such days.

Indian captain Dilip Tirkey believes it could all come back against Pakistan. “We play a different brand of hockey and the essential emotion in the match is not to give an inch. Tomorrow could be completely different,”feels Dilip.

Pakistan coach Asif Bajwa is the kind who prefers sitting on a chair and giving television interviews. “I am tired,” he says, as a crew tries to persuade him to stand as the backdrop is not that hot for television. Bajwa wins in the end. And that is the way he would want a score line against India.

“It’s different,” he says. “Those outside the sub-continent cannot understand the meaning of an India-Pakistan hockey match. It’s more than a match. And it goes beyond merely winning or losing.”

Those who were fortunate enough to watch that 7-4 victory, at the ground or Live on television would never forget the sight of Gagan Ajit Singh cutting through the Pakistan defence. To put it in perspective, it was like watching a car driving up the wrong way in traffic - Dodging, weaving, and bobbing through the Pakistan defence as the defenders threw everything including their sticks to stop him. But the goal still came.

“I wish we could repeat that,” says Gagan. “The advantage is that the team that utilizes space and the breaks will come out the winner.”

Till then we have the statistics to tell us that Pakistan hold the edge. Both the teams have played 30 matches since 2001 with Pakistan winning 17, India winning 10 and three were drawn.

On Thursday at 8.30 pm, Amstelveen time, India would dearly want to reverse that trend.

South Korea Shock Holland
By Sundeep Misra

South Korea shocked hosts Holland 2-1 to keep alive their hopes of entering the Rabo Bank Hockey final here at the Waegner Stadium on Wednesday.

Holland are virtually out of the race for the final.

South Korea were well served by their goalkeeper Sik Dong Ko who played a brilliant second half saving four sure shot goals.

South Korea scored through Seon Jung Lee (29th) and Sung Hoon Yoon (50th).

Holland reduced the margin in the 38th minute through Roderick Weusthof.

South Korea now have six points with two wins and loss. While Holland have one point from their drawn game against England. They play their last Pool B match against Australia on Friday.

Smarting after their 1-7 defeat to Australia, South Korea played with solidity in the midfield. Seong Jung Kang was the initiator as he moved brilliantly peppering the Dutch striking circle with defence splitting passes.

Even upfront, Korea teased the Dutch defence as Lee Jung and Jong Seo entered the Dutch striking circle almost at will.

By the 11th minute, Korea had already earned three penalty corners to Holland’s one.

Korea took the lead in the 29th minute when Seon Jung Lee fired in a penalty corner that went in off the Dutch goalkeeper’s pads.

Holland were reduced to ten men when Taeke Taekema was sent off with a yellow card after a bruising tackle on a Korean forward.

At the break, Korea led 1-0

Holland equalized two minutes after the break when off their second penalty corner, Roderick Weusthof flicked straight beating the Korean goalkeeper Sik Dong.

Korea took the lead in the 50th minute when after snatching the ball in the midfield, Seong sent a perfect pass to Sung Hoon Yoon in the Dutch striking circle. Sung deftly turned and shot into goal from the top of the circle.

As the minutes ran out, Holland came close but Korean goalkeeper Sik Dong kept away the Dutch forwards. In the 65th minute, Taeke Taekema’s penalty corner flick seemed headed for goal but hit the cross-piece.

Australia Thrash England

Olympic Champions Australia continued their superb form thrashing England 6-2 in a Pool B match here at the Rabo Bank Hockey Tournament on Wednesday.

It was Australia's second consecutive victory that gives them six points and virtually sets them up for a place in the tournaments final.

Earlier on Tuesday, Australia had beaten Asian Games Champions South Korea 7-1.

England, trying to make a comeback into the top fold of international hockey held the Aussies in the first half allowing them only a 1-0 lead and even equalized after the break but really couldn’t keep up the momentum as silly defence errors gave the breaks to Australia to run away with a 6-2 score line.

Australia struggled initially and it was only in the 33rd minute that they took the lead when Matthew Wells scored from a penalty corner.

England replied back in the 38th minute, three minutes after the break when Richard Alexander scored with a field effort.

Australia then scored thrice in the 44th, 50th and 55th minutes through Jamie Dwyer, Grant Schubert and Ben Bishop, all goals coming off field efforts.

In the 60th minute, England cut back the deficit when Rob Moore scored from the top of the circle with a fiery shot that flew past the Australian goalkeeper Stephen Lambert.

Australia scored twice in the last four minutes. Luke Doerner hammering in a penalty corner in the 66th minute and then Matthew Naylor clipping in a goal in the 70th minute.

Australia now play hosts Holland in their final Pool B game on Friday.

England have played all their three matches in Pool B and have one point from a draw with hosts Holland.

England Hold Holland 1-1

Hosts Holland were held to a 1-1 draw in an inspired performance by England here at the Rabo Trophy Hockey Tournament on Tuesday.

England who had been beaten 1-5 by South Korea in the tournament opener held off the Dutch in one of the best displays in recent times.

Holland, who had only a couple of days back won the four-nation Masters tournament in Hamburg opened their scoring through Mathjis Brouwer.

But England fought back superbly and snatched the equaliser in the 35th minute through Jonty Clarke.

With this draw, both teams shared a point each. For England, it was their first point in two matches.

Pakistan, Spain Play Goalless Draw
By Sundeep Misra

Pakistan held Champions Trophy winners Spain to a goalless draw here at the Rabo Bank Hockey Tournament on Tuesday.

Both the teams could have clinched the match but were guilty of missing some sitters.

Spanish coach Maurits Hendricks was quite critical of his teams performance and said, “We allowed Pakistan to much build up space and I would need to speak to the team about it and rectify it in the next match.”

Maurits was also unhappy with the way his team utilized the chances that came their way through penalty corners.
Pakistan coach Asif Bajwa, however, said that Spain were lucky as “we had three to four good chances and we should have put them away.”

Maurits, of course, praised the Pakistan side saying, “They have improved since the Lahore Champions Trophy and were utilizing the space quite well.”

Pakistan and Spain now have one point each. Pakistan face India in their next match on Thursday while Spain meet Germany.

Australia Thrash Korea
By Sundeep Misra

Olympic Champions Australia smashed past South Korea 7-1 to begin their Rabo Bank Hockey Tournament campaign on a resounding note here at the Waegner Stadium on Tuesday.

Australia who only recently finished second in the 4-nation Hamburg Masters were in terrific form as they raced away to a 4-0 lead by the time the game entered it’s 25th minute.

Australia scored through Grant Schubert (5th, 70th), Michael McCann (18th, 25th), Travis Brooks (22nd), Liam de Young (50th) and Rob Hammond (68th).

Korea’s consolation goal came in the 64th minute when Seong Eun Hong pushed in a cross from the right.
Australian coach Barry Dancer was happy with the way his team started the tournament. “Actually, the initial momentum paid off,” said Dancer. “And we just kept at it.”

After the fifth minute opening goal from Grant Schubert, Australia opened up the flanks and let fly with the scoreboard registering 4-0 by the 25th minute and all field goals.

South Korea threw back into defence an extra midfielder but players like Schubert were opening up the Koreans like tin cans.

At the break, Australia led 4-0 with promises off more to come.

The fifth came in the 50th minute. Liam Young smashing in a penalty corner.

Korea decided to fight back and score a goal which they did when Seong Hong deflected in a cross from the right flank.

It’s not that Korea was completely off form but the Australians were superb on the counter-attack with the Koreans unable to catch them.

Just when it seemed that the Aussies would close down the match, they fired in another two to round it off with a tennis like score line 7-1.

Three points in the kitty, Australia now play England on Wednesday.

Germany Show India The Door
By Sundeep Misra

World Champions Germany handed India a 2-1 defeat to send the Asia Cup Champions out of contention for a top four placing in the Rabo Bank Hockey Tournament here at the Wagener Stadium on Tuesday.

Germany took the lead through Matthias Witthaus in the 3rd minute before India equalized through a Kanwalpreet Singh converted penalty corner in the 40th minute. Germany snatched the match-winner through Niklas Meinert.

Germany now have three points while India after having crashed to their second consecutive defeat are now staring at a possible 7th/8th play-off.

The Indians have only themselves to blame as they had their chances in the second half but couldn’t put it away.
Worse, the defeat against Germany would rankle as the Germans are rebuilding and are not at their best.

Germany took the lead after the Indian defenders had momentarily relaxed thinking that the umpire was about to blow for a penalty corner but Ged Curran instead gave the advantage inside the Indian striking circle to Germany as Matthias Witthaus blasted in.

Contrary to their luke warm showing against Spain, there was a sense of urgency in the Indian team. Probably, Rajinder Singh’s warning to the seniors and the team in general had paid off. The midfield was seen moving up with the few gaps that were being created being plugged by Dilip Tirkey.

Even Gagan Ajit Singh, completely out of form against Spain on Sunday, was seen prowling around the German striking circle and was clearly unlucky in not putting in a chance after Germany had taken the lead.

But by the middle of the first half, it was clear that Germany even though lacking in experience when compared with the Indians were playing a more disciplined brand of the game.

They moved into positions faster, were on the ball quicker and their counter-attacks took advantage of the weaker left half of the Indians. Kanwalpreet Singh who was regularly beaten by the German pace was shifted to the right by Rajinder but the attacks still flowed from the German right out.

Germany would have been two goals up when a deflection went in beating Devesh Chauhan but as umpire Ged Curran blew for goal and the Indians protested that the ball came off the line, the Germans in a superb act of sportsmanship went up to the umpire and said it was off the line.

In the 26th minute, Germany earned their first penalty corner which was well stopped by the Indian defence.

India had two clear chances at equalizing. First, a Bimal Lakra free hit was brilliantly deflected by Viren and as the ball threatened to climb and go into goal, German goalkeeper Christian Schulte kept it out.

The second chance came off a rare Arjun Halappa move that saw Gagan, Ravipal move in but the pass intended for Deepak wasn’t trapped neatly.

At the break, Germany were clearly forcing the pace. India really needed to bring some cohesion into their forward line that were actually playing like a bunch of individuals running after personal glory.

The second half saw India striking early. India earned their first penalty corner of the match in the 40th minute and Kanwalpreet Singh scored his first goal after the 2004 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Madrid to give India the equalizer.

Three minutes later, the lead would have been India’s but for Prabhjot Singh who bungled with an empty goal in front. Bimal made the move, going up and hitting a crisp shot into the striking circle. The ball deflected from Gagan’s stick to Prabhjot, with the German goalkeeper fallen to one side but Prabhjot flicked it past the post.
Germany punished India for the lapse by taking the lead against the run of play in the 47th minute. The German second penalty corner was taken on the glove by Devesh Chauhan but the Indian goalkeeper couldn’t stop the rebound being whacked in by Niklas Meinert.

Two chances for equalizing the deficit came India’s way in the form of penalty corners in the 55th and 57th minutes but Kanwalpreet and Didar Singh, both failed with the indirect variations.

With minutes ticking away, India had a couple of sharp chances in the German striking circle but couldn’t put it away.

India now play Pakistan on Thursday.

Rajinder Warns Seniors
By Sundeep Misra

Watching India go down 0-1 to Spain was like flipping the history pages of Indian hockey. For the first time ever, Indian coach Rajinder Singh junior spoke about change and said, ”It’s time we invested in juniors if the seniors and that too experienced players are not going to perform.”

Strong words from a man who almost never speaks his mind, atleast openly.

Wrong passes was the mantra in the first half as the Spanish dominated the midfield. The Indians played as if they had taken a vow that they would not enter the Spanish striking circle. But a huge amount of credit should go to Xavier Ribas and Ramon Alegre who didn’t let Gagan Ajit, Deepak Thakur and Prabhjot Singh out of their sights.

The domination came good in the 24th minute when the brilliant Pol Amat picked up a cross from the left and swung into the Indian striking circle to blast a shot past the inconsistent Devesh Chauhan. The Indian goalkeeper had minutes ago saved an Eduard Tubau shot brilliantly. But to let go off a rising shot on his right spoke more about Chauhan’s goalkeeping frailities than Amat’s goal scoring brilliance.

There was some surge in energy when Rajpal and Didar Singh were introduced but the Indians had lost their nerve and confidence.

The second half saw a little more determination from the Indians but Ribas and his mates at the back had the measure of the Indian forward line. And however many times did Rajinder shuffle his cards the result didn’t seem to be going India’s way. Even a draw seem a remote possibility.

With two minutes left, it looked like luck would swing India’s way when they earned their second penalty corner but Kanwalpreet was so late on the direct hit that Spain didn’t have any problem tackling it.

India play World Champions Germany on Tuesday and if coach Rajinder is to be believed, changes could be around the corner.

Spain bt India
By Sundeep Misra

Spain took advantage of a lethargic India to carve out a 1-0 victory and start their Rabobank Trophy campaign on a winning note here at the Wagener Stadium on Sunday.

Spain’s match-winner was Pol Amat who scored off a field effort in the 24th minute.

India played below par with the midfield not moving up thus depriving the forwards off the moves that would have made them effective.

Spain started aggressively taking advantage of an Indian defence that took some time settling down. Two penalty corners in the first two minutes would have had the Spanish flying high but India effectively blocked them.

Spain controlled the midfield making things difficult for the Indian forward line. Xavier Ribas and Ramon Alegre, in the Spanish defence, gave no space to Deepak Thakur and Prabhjot Singh with the result that, till the 18th minute, India didn’t even enter the Spanish striking circle even once. It was also surprising to see an attacking midfielder like Viren Rasquinha playing a defensive role.

By the 18th minute, in the first half, Spain had four shots at goal and would have taken the lead in the 19th minute but Eduard Tubau shot’s from the centre of the striking circle was brilliantly saved by Devesh Chauhan.

With Spain attacking on both the flanks and India playing an ultra-defensive game, it was only a matter of time before Spain would have taken the lead. That moment came in the 24th minute when David Alegre sent a perfect through ball for Pol Amat who swung into the Indian striking circle and beat Devesh Chauhan with a rising shot.

India substituted its stars upfront, Gagan Ajit and Deepak with Rajpal and Didar but the flair was only fleeting before the Indians got defensive again, constantly giving the ball away in the midfield. Even a change of positions, Rajpal Singh coming onto the left and Ravipal playing left-inside didn’t help as the Indians were still searching for a shot at goal.

With two minutes left in the first half, India displayed their first attacking move. Bimal Lakra stole a Spanish pass in the midfield, surged ahead and gave it to Didar Singh. But Didar’s pass to Deepak couldn’t be converted into a shot at goal as the Indian forward stumbled. India, however, earned a penalty corner as the ball had struck the leg of a Spanish defender. But the indirect conversion was well saved by Quicko Cortes, the Spanish goalkeeper.

In the second half, Spain controlled the midfield again not giving too many chances for the Indians to build up.
However, the Indians can only blame themselves for despite managing to squeeze out a couple of goal scoring opportunities, they couldn’t manage to eke out a equalizer.

Once, Gagan Ajit’s deflection off a Deepak Thakur cross crashed onto the goalkeeper’s pads and then with around eight minutes left, Rajpal made a stirring run but his shot was taken on the pads by Cortes. The rebound was then shot out by Ignace from the top of the circle.

With just three minutes left, India earned their second penalty corner but Kanwalpreet Singh’s direct hit was saved by the onrushing Spanish defenders.

India now play Germany in their next match on Tuesday.

Korea bt England
By Sundeep Misra

Asian Games Champions South Korea opened their Rabo Trophy campaign here at the Waegner Stadium on Sunday with a thumping 5-1 victory over England.

At the break, Korea led 3-1.

Jong Hyun Jang scored twice (13th, 51st) with Jong Ho Seo (7th), Seong Jung Kang (35th) and Sung Min Lee (66th), the other scorers for Korea.

England did maintain possession but couldn’t control the game in the Korean striking circle.

England coach Jason Lee maintained that the team is trying to find their feet in international hockey and such losses could only be lessons.

“We were stronger than the Koreans in the midfield but they were more consistent when it came to our striking circle,” said Jason. “England has not been at this level of international hockey for a long time and we would only try and improve against Holland and Australia.”

The Korean coach Cho Myung Jun was happy to have started of the tournament with an emphatic win but expressed displeasure at the midfield that gave away the balls to the English forward line.

“It’s good we started with a big win but the boys would need to play at a higher level against Holland and Australia,” said Cho.

Korea took the lead in the 13th minute when Jong Hyung Jang fired in a penalty corner.

England did well to come back into the match with sustained play in the midfield and equalized in the 22nd minute, Ben Hawes flicking in a penalty stroke.

Korea scored their second in the 33rd minute when Jong Ho Seo squeezed a shot past the England goalkeeper Jon Ebsworth.

Korea’s third came virtually on the half-time buzzer when Seong Jung Kang scored off a penalty corner.

At the break, Korea led 3-1.

England did try and increase pressure but a Korean goal in the 51st minute destroyed any plans England had of coming back into the game. The fourth Korean goal came off a Jong Hyung Jang field goal effort, Jong’s second goal of the match.

Sung Min Lee rounded off the tally for Korea with a fifth when he picked up a stray pass and knocked it past Ebsworth, the England goalkeeper.





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