SV Sunil put his experience to fore scoring the winner in the 59th minute to ensure India beat Wales 4-3 in a dramatic encounter that went down to the wire here at the Gold Coast XXI Commonwealth Games on Sunday. It was a victory the Indian team had to work for every minute of the game with Wales putting up a commendable performance. It was a must-win game for them, having drawn 1-1 to Pakistan and losing 0-3 to Malaysia in the previous two Pool B matches.
Wales put India under pressure hooter-to-hooter testing the Indian team’s resilience with a well-structured defence. It was SV Sunil who starred in India’s win with a second attempt at deflecting Rupinder Pal Singh dragflick, which had rebounded off the Welsh goalkeeper’s pads in the dying minutes of the match. Dilpreet Singh (16), Mandeep Singh (28’), Harmanpreet Singh (57’) were the other goal scorers for India.
For Wales, Gareth Furlong scored a hat-trick to snatch India’s lead on three occasions (17’, 45’ and 58’), converting three out of the four PCs Wales earned thus keeping his team’s hopes alive to stay in the match.
Earlier, India had begun well, putting their fierce attack on display with Akashdeep Singh driving into the left flank of the Welsh circle only one minute into the start. His assist to Gurjant Singh saw in India winning the first PC of the match. However, Harmanpreet Singh’s flick was well-saved. Splitting points with Pakistan after a 2-2 draw in their first outing, India needed a win to keep their Semi Final hopes alive. The second quarter saw experienced forward SV Sunil increase the ante in India’s attack as he worked magic, driving in through the right flank with imploding speed. His shot on goal found a perfect deflection from Dilpreet Singh’s stick winning India 1-0 lead in the 16th minute. However, the lead didn’t last long enough as an Indian infringement saw Wales win a PC in the 17th minute. Though James Carson’s dragflick was saved by first rusher Chinglensana Singh, Gareth Furlong’s powerful flick went in between defender Varun Kumar’s legs.
India regained the lead in the 28th minute when SV Sunil earned India their third PC of the match. Though Rupinder’s dragflick was saved by the Welsh goalkeeper, Manpreet tried to deflect the rebound but it was finally Mandeep Singh who got the touch to put India ahead again by 2-1. The following quarter saw Indian dragflickers miss out opportunities of converting two PCs won in the 31st minute, however, Welsh did not make any such mistake when they won a PC in the 44th minute. It was Furlong who found an equalizer yet again with a splendid conversation only to mount pressure on India. A little earlier, in the 40th minute, India lost out on their third goal when Mandeep Singh’s deflection off SV Sunil’s cross narrowly missed the goalpost.
With the scoreline even, the match went down to the wire with both teams vying for a winner in the final quarter. A PC earned in the 48th minute could not be converted by India’s Rupinder Pal Singh while Akashdeep Singh missed a deflection off Sunil’s assist in the 51st minute. Missing shots on goal didn’t help India’s cause with time ticking away and score reading 2-2. After losing out on two back-to-back PCs in the 54th minute, Harmanpreet Singh converted when India won another PC in the 56th minute fetching a much-needed 3-2 lead. However, an infringement by an Indian defender in the 57th minute saw Wales being awarded a PC. Perfect conversion by Furlong – his third goal of the match put India under further stress. A crucial video referral appealed by India was upheld by the umpire, awarding India a PC with less than two minutes for the finalhooter. After working a powerful injection, SV Sunil positioned himself to find the deflection on his second attempt to seal the match for India.
“I am happy with the win but not with our performance because we can do so much better than this. Though we were a better team today compared to our first match against Pakistan, we need to play our A game against Malaysia if we want to see ourselves in the Semi Final,” stated Indian Team Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne.
India take on Malaysia in their next Pool B match, a team that heavily relies on PCs and on a good day can cause an upset win. After a poor conversion rate in PCs today where India won 13 PCs, Marijne would want his team to improve on this aspect. “We cannot miss any opportunity to score and today there were plenty of those opportunities. But I am hopeful the win today will give us a good moment for the next game,” he signed off.