India played out a goalless draw against England in an entertaining pool match to remain in contention for a direct quarterfinal berth in the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup here on Sunday.In an evenly contested Pool D match, both the sides failed to score despite getting ample chances to force a result at the jam-packed Birsa Munda Stadium.England got eight penalty corners as against India’s four. But the home team’s penalty corners defence was impeccable.
England and India are now on four points each from two matches and who tops the pool and qualify directly for the quarterfinals will be decided on January 19 when India play Wales while England take on Spain, both the matches to be played at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.If two teams are on equal points and have won same number of matches, the side which have better goal difference will be ranked higher. England now have a goal difference of plus five after beating Wales 5-0 in their opening match as against plus two of India, who had emerged 2-0 winners against Spain.It was England who dominated in the first quarter as they got five penalty corners one after the other. But India defended the PCs quite well as Manpreet Singh was the first to rush out and close down the angle.
Mandeep Singh won India’s first penalty corner towards the end of the first quarter but Manpreet’s stop was not the best one, forcing captain Harmanpreet Singh to abort his dragflick. As soon as the second quarter started, Wallace Zachary’s hit from inside the Indian circle came off Krishan Bahadur Pathak high and England got their sixth PC but again wasted it.England kept on entering the Indian circle and got their seventh penalty corner but first rusher Amit Rohidas was quick enough to fend off the strike.It was end-to-end stuff for a few minutes before Harmanpreet earned a penalty corner for India, the second of the match, but he fluffed it.
After Nilam Sanjeep Xess made a last minute clearance in the Indian ‘D’ in the 24th minute, Hardik Singh attempted a fierce reverse shot from the top of England circle, only to miss the target by a whisker.India pressed and earned their fourth PC but England were able to clear after a scramble inside the circle. It was then the turn of Varun Kumar to try his luck but his shot failed to cause any harm. India were the dominant side in the second quarter but could not score as the two sides failed to break the deadlock at half time.
David Condon had a try in the 37th minute but went wide. But India were unlucky not to have taken the lead the next minute as Hardik’s double shot was saved by England goalie.The match was spiced up and it was the turn of England to get a golden chance as the Indian defence allowed Sam Ward to take a reverse shot from a one-on-one situation with goalie P R Sreejesh but it went wide.India responded quickly and it was Mandep who had a glorious chance to score in the 41st minute as he got a free hit just near the top of England ‘D’ but he missed the target.
The full capacity crowd of 21,000 thought India had taken the lead in the last minute of the third quarter which was contested evenly after the ball landed into the English goal but the umpire ruled that it had already hit an Indian leg.India were one man down in the last few minutes of the match and England pressed for the winner but failed to breach the home team’s defence. England got a PC in the last minute but wasted it.In an earlier Pool D match, Spain beat Wales 5-1.