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Mandeep’s hat-trick in India win

- The hosts finally put up an inspired performance to stun Germany 5-4
Indians celebrate their win over Germany, in New Delhi, on Friday. (PTI)

New Delhi: After a series of disappointing performances, the Indian hockey team finally came good on Friday when they defeated Olympic champions Germany 5-4 in a classification match of the Hockey World League (HWL) Final.

With captain Sardar Singh doing a creditable job while marshalling the midfield, the Indians, who trailed 1-3 at the breather, played inspired hockey in the second session to stun the world No. 1 side.

Prior to this victory, India had failed to get the better of Germans in an official tournament since the 2004 Champions Trophy.

While young Mandeep Singh struck a hat-trick, Rupinderpal Singh scored twice off drag flicks, including one in the dying minutes, to notch up India’s only win in the tournament so far.

With the hosts losing three of their four previous matches in the tournament, the performance against Germans would, surely, bring about a lot of cheer in the Indian camp.

Germany, on the other hand, were not in their elements in the tournament. India held them to a 3-3 draw in the group league also before the Germans failed to make the last four.

India will now take on Belgium for the 5-6 position match, while Germany will play Argentina for 7-8 positions.

In the first half, the Germans looked like walking away with the match after Oliver Korn, Thilo Stralkowski and Benjamin Wess scored to put the team 3-1 ahead. The Indian goal came through Mandeep Singh, who made most of a cross from VR Raghunath.

However, in the second half, Rupinderpal converted a penalty corner in the 39th minute to reduce the margin. Mandeep found the equaliser soon after when SV Sunil’s cross fetched him in perfect position.

In the 49th minute, the Germans missed an opportunity to go ahead again when they missed a penalty stroke. Tobias Hauke hit the ball wide much to the relief of the Indian fans.

Four minutes later, Raghunath found an unmarked Mandeep in the box and the striker made no mistake, completing his hat-trick. Germany, however, equalised in the 55th minute when Martin Haner converted a penalty corner. The match swung in India’s favour in the last minute when Rupinderpal struck from a penalty corner.

The final, to be played on Saturday, would be between New Zealand and Netherlands.

On Friday, New Zealand surprised England 7-6 in shoot out, while Netherlands beat Australia 4-3 in the other match.

Meanwhile, Hockey India announced that the Indian team will not participate in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup to be held in Malaysia from March 13-23 as they will be busy preparing for the World Cup in Europe.