Thu, Feb 23, 2012 - Page 20 News List

Sandeep strikes for India in field hockey qualifier

AFP, NEW DELHI

Penalty-corner expert Sandeep Singh scored a hat-trick as India boosted their chances of making it to the men’s final with a 6-2 win over France in the Olympic qualifying tournament on Tuesday.

In other matches in New Delhi, Canada routed inexperienced Singapore 15-1 and Poland defeated Italy 7-2 for their second win in three games.

India currently top the six-team group with nine points from three matches, followed by Canada, Poland and France who have six points apiece. Singapore and Italy are virtually out of contention.

In the women’s section, Italy held higher-ranked South Africa to a surprise 1-1 draw, Ukraine overcame a 1-0 deficit to down Canada 5-2 and India beat Poland 3-0.

India and South Africa lead the group with seven points each, followed by Italy (five), Ukraine (four), Canada (one) and Poland (nil).

The top two teams in each event will enter the final, with the winners qualifying for the London Olympics.

The hosts began on an impressive note when Shivendra Singh and Sandeep Singh struck in the opening nine minutes, but France counter-attacked to keep pressure on the Indian goal.

Sandeep converted a penalty-stroke to help India gain a 3-0 lead before Lucas Sevestre reduced the margin off a penalty-corner in the closing minute of the opening session.

Sandeep scored off a penalty-corner in the second half to complete his hat-trick before S.V. Sunil and Tushar Khandker found the mark. Fabien Magner scored the second goal for France.

“Overall, it was a good performance. We played the way we wanted to. We had a plan and everything went according to it,” India coach Michael Nobbs said. “We are improving with every match and cutting down on errors.”

Mark Pearson and Scott Tupper each scored four goals for Canada, who kept alive their hopes of making it to the final. The other goal-scorers were Rob Short (3), Philip Wright, Richard Hildreth, Sukhwinder Singh and Matthew Guest.

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