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India beat Chile, in final

Santiago: India ended their league campaign with a 4-1 defeat of Chile in the Olympic hockey qualifying tournament at the Prince of Wales Country Club.

With their berth in the final already confirmed following Britain’s 4-0 win over Austria earlier in the day, the Indians played freely and with confidence but missed far too many scoring opportunities in the match played late on Saturday.

The winner of the final will qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Drag-flick specialist V. Ramachandra Raghunath was again in the thick of things, scoring two goals (23rd, 61st), including one from India’s only penalty corner to take his tournament tally to 10. Prabhjot Singh (9th) and Bharat Chhikara (23rd) scored one apiece.

For Chile, who defended with resolve, Felipe Montegu converted their lone penalty corner in the 63rd minute.

India thus finished second, behind Britain with 12 points, followed by Austria (9), Russia (6), Chile (3) and Mexico (0).

India dominated much of the game but the forward line again missed out on far too many scoring opportunities even granting that the Chilean defenders were on the button with their marking and covering.

India took time to get into their stride despite taking the lead in the 9th minute when Prabhjot deflected home a Bimal Lakra long corner hit.

Only in patches did the Indians display fluency and rhythm against a team that was running on enthusiasm and little else.

In the 23rd minute, Raghunath found the boards off a Prabhjot pass to give India a 2-0 lead.

Then followed probably the best part of India’s display in this session when a flowing move down the middle, orchestrated by Ignace Tirkey and Tushar Khandekar, saw Chhikara letting fly from the right for the third goal.

India began the second half strongly, stringing together a few fluent moves while stepping up the pace. Adopting a “full-court press”, they kept Chile under pressure, but a goal eluded them.

Rajpal had the best chance in the first 10 minutes of the half when he launched a lightning counter-attack, exchanging passes with Prabhjot. However, he shot wide.

In the 53rd minute Rajpal had another great opportunity to score. He was put through by Roshan Minz but was way off the mark. Almost immediately, it was Prabhjot’s turn to muff a sitter by shooting straight at the goalkeeper.

Intent on attack, the Indians left their back open and Chile counter-attacked. However, an alert William Xalco intercepted inside the circle and passed to Prabhjot. In desperation, defender Ian Koppenberger brought Prabhjot down near the centre line and was sent off with a yellow card in the 54th minute.

Three minutes later, India received their third yellow card in two matches when Ajitesh Roy was given marching orders in the 57th minute for bringing down Cristobal Rodriguez.

The Chilean defence stood up well to the onslaughts, soaking up all the pressure, but a deliberate foul inside their own 25-yard area presented India a penalty corner in the 61st minute and Raghunath converted for the fourth goal.

But Chile’s fightback came a little too late.

Earlier, Britain beat Austria to complete their league engagements with an unbeaten record.         (PTI)

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