Ipoh (Malaysia), Aug 24: Mandeep Singh struck a hat-trick as two-time champions India thrashed Oman 8-0 in their opening match of the Asia Cup Hockey at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium here Saturday.
The Asia Cup offers India a last chance to qualify for the next year’s World Cup as the winner will get a direct entry into the tournament that will be held in Hague, The Netherlands.
India scored four goals each in both the halves and dominated the proceedings. But high performance manager and interim coach Roelant Oltmans will be worried with the penalty corner conversions and the passing game of the young team.
India managed just two out of the six chances that came their way and were unimpressive with the passing game that could cost them in their next Pool B match against defending champions South Korea slated for Monday.
Besides young forward Madeep (3rd, 40th, 45th), dragflickers V.R.Raghunath (28th), Rupinder Pal Singh (34th) just managed to convert two of six short-corners. Debutant Ramandeep (17th), Malak Singh (47th) and S.K. Uthappa (70th) struck once in the second half. Captain Sardar Singh overcame sickness to spend some time on the field.
India were on the attacking mode right from the outset and there dominance was evident as they enjoyed 80 percent of bal possession.
Mandeep drew first blood for India as he scored from a goal mouth scramble after Rupinder’s dragflick was well saved by Oman goalie Al Noufali Fahad Khamis Salmeen.
Thirteen minutes later, Ramandeep doubled the lead after he was well set up Malak on the right flank for his maiden international goal.
The right flank did most of job for India as Ramandeep combined well with Malak to orchestrate most of the Indian attack.
Raghunath made it 3-0 in the 17th minute converting the penalty after Nithin Thimmaiah was brought down inside the Oman circle.
India took a 4-0 lead after Rupinder, top scorer in the Azlan Shah Cup, converted the fifth penalty corner at the stroke of the breather.
In the second half, Oman came out with more men in the defence. But it took exactly five minutes for India to unlock them. It was Mandeep, who completed his brace with a reverse stick shot off a precise cross from Chingelsana Singh.
In the 45th minute, Mandeep got his hattrick again with a reverse stick converting a pin-point pass from Dharamvir Singh.
Three minutes later, Dharamvir’s shot was saved by the Oman goalkeeper but Malak shot of the rebound to give India a 7-0 lead.
A sliding Uthappa completed the scoreline tapping home Malak’s cross from the right flank at the hooter.