Penalty-corner specialists Rupinderpal Singh and VR Raghunath scored hat-tricks each as India thrashed minnows Bangladesh 9-1 to maintain their unbeaten run ahead of the semifinals in the ninth Asia Cup hockey tournament here on Wednesday.
The Indians,who were through to the semifinals even before todays match,led 5-1 at the break and added four more goals in the second session to stamp their authority over their lowly opponents.
Of Rupinder’s four goals (4th,19th,27th,61st minutes) three came via the penalty corner,while Raghunath (29th,52nd,59th) also made the best use of short corners to emerge as the joint top-scorer of the tournament with Jang Jong Hyun of South Korea on six goals apiece.
Nikkin Thimmaiah (25th) and Malak Singh (47th) were the other goal-scorers for India. Bangladeshs lone goal was scored by skipper Md Mamunur Rahman Chayan in 35th minute.
By virtue of this win,the Indians finished on top of Pool B with nine points from three games. Defending champions South Korea are second in this pool with six points. India will now face Pool A runners-up and hosts Malaysia in the second semifinal on Friday,while South Korea will be up against Pool A toppers Pakistan.
The match between India and Bangladesh started nearly 40 minutes late as the first game of the day between Korea and Oman was delayed due to heavy downpour in the evening. Playing under persistent drizzle and damp conditions,the Indians didn’t waste any time in asserting themselves from the beginning.
Such was their dominance that they earned as many as 10 penalty corners in the match,out of which they utilised six.
The Indians were under no pressure as they played free-flowing hockey to put the Bangladeshi defence under constant pressure. Ranked 31st in the world,Bangladesh were expected to be a mismatch for the eight-time Olympic champions India,and they turned out to be exactly that.
As their interim coach Roelant Oltmans indicated after the Korea match,the Indians went for attack against Bangladesh from the opening whistle.
However after the win over Bangladesh Oltmans preferred to reserve his praise for another day. This sort of game is always difficult to play because you already know that you are in the semifinals. To add to it the weather was also not really fantastic,the match was delayed. It is not always the best situation to be in as a player. I must say it was not our best game of the tournament but we are happy with the 9-1 win, Oltmans said at the post-match press conference.
I think we can raise our level in the coming matches. I don’t think the players also were completely happy with their performance. In certain parts of the game they were happy but in certain parts of the game we did not show consistency, he said.
Talking about the semifinals against Malaysia on Friday,Oltmans said,We know we have one day’s rest while they have two days rest. But these things don’t matter to me. I only can prepare my team as good as possible. It is fantastic to play Malaysia. I am looking forward to the game,it will be a tight game, Oltmans said. There is no pressure,we enjoy playing hockey. Pressure most of the time comes from the outside.