Antwerp, June 20 (IANS) India were made to work hard for a 3-2 victory over lower ranked France in their first Pool A match of the Hockey World League (HWL) semi-final here on Saturday.
World No.18 France shocked world No.9 India by taking a 1-0 lead in the third minute as Olivier Sanchez scored a field goal but Manpreet Singh’s penalty corner conversion in the 27th minute gave India the equaliser.
Devinder Walmiki put India ahead two minutes later with a field goal before France equalised via a goal from Simon Martin Brisac in the 43rd minute.
However, striker Ramandeep Singh sealed the match in India’s favour with a field goal in the 59th minute and ensured that the 2014 Asian Games champions take three points from the game.
India started on a sluggish note as France attacked from the beginning and breached Indian defence in the third minute that led to a goal from Sanchez.
Stunned by the early goal, India got their act together and improved their game and organised its defence in a better way. But they were not able to equalise in the first quarter and raised their attack to get the equaliser in the second quarter.
Following a bad defensive play from the French, India were awarded a penalty corner and Manpreet converted it successfully. Indian mounted their attack and skipper Sardar Singh assisted debutant Devinder for the latter to score his side’s second goal.
The third half witnessed a tough battle between both the teams as India sought to defend their lead while the French wanted an equaliser – which they got in the 43rd minute with a field strike from Brisac .
As soon as the fourth and final quarter began, India showed their intent and worked hard for it. The goal came late with not more than 90 seconds to go as again skipper Sardar set up Ramandeep in front of the rivalcircle and the latter tapped the ball in to make it 3-2 for India.
In their next match, Paul van Ass-coached India will face Poland.