Favourites India demolished hapless Russia 10-0 in their opening match of the FIH Series Finals hockey tournament to start their 2020 Olympics qualification campaign on a rousing note here Thursday.
Drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh (32nd, 48th) and striker Akashdeep Singh (41st, 55th minutes) scored a brace each for India, while Nilkanata Sharma (13th), Simranjeet Singh (19th), Amit Rohidas (20th), Varun Kumar (33rd), Gursahibjit Singh (38th) and Vivek Sagar Prasad (45th) were the other goal-getters for the home team in the lop-sided Pool B encounter.
Even though their goal was never threatened once in the first two quarters, the Indians were slow to get off the blocks, especially against a side which is ranked 22nd in the world.
The Indian forward line looked a little complacent in the first half as it failed to finish off the moves on quite a few occasions. But still, it was one-way traffic as India controlled the proceedings from the word go.
As early as the third minute, India earned back-to-back penalty corners but both went in vain with Harmanpreet striking the top upright of the Russian goal in the second effort.
It took World No. 5 India 13 minutes to break the deadlock when Nilkanta deflected in Akshdeep Singh’s push from the top of the D.
Seconds later Nilkanta was once again in the thick of things but his try from the top of the circle was saved by Russian goalkeeper Marat Gafarov.
India doubled their lead in the 19th minute through Simranjeet who scored from a rebound after Sumit’s reverse hit was saved by the Russian goalie.
A minute later India secured their third penalty corner and Rohidas made no mistake in slotting the ball home to hand his side a 3-0 lead.
The hosts secured another short corner before the halfway break but failed to utilise it.
But the Indians changed gear after cross over and toyed with the Russian defence to score goals at will.
Harmanpreet and Varun first converted two penalty corners in consecutive minutes before Gursahibjit and Akshdeep scored two field goals in the 38th and 41st minutes respectively.
Young Prasad also registered his name in the scoresheet before Harmanpreet sounded the board again from a penalty corner. Akashdeep scored his second goal of the day five minutes from the final hooter to complete the rout.
India will play Poland in their second pool match on Friday.
Chief coach Graham Reid said he was happy with the Indian team’s performance but not satisfied.
“I am happy with our performance today but we can do much better. We would have liked to score more goals in the first two quarters. A coach can never be satisfied,” the Australian said after the match.
“It is difficult to judge performance against a team like Russia,” he added.
India captain Manpreet Singh agreed with his coach.
“We got a lot of scoring chances and our finishing too was very good. But we need to avail more of the chances that come our way,” he said.