New Delhi, Jan 13: A much improved India almost bagged a win against reigning Olympic champions Germany but a goal in the dying minutes by the latter helped them eke out a 3-3 draw in the final Pool A match of the Hockey World League Final here Monday.
Earlier, England handed New Zealand a 5-1 drubbing in the other Pool A game at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium to remain the only unbeaten team of the tournament with three wins.
India were cautious at the start with defensive play but slowly gained pace and were able to penetrate the German defence. They had a brilliant opportunity when Birendra Lakra found an open D and passed the ball only to be stopped by German keeper Tim Jessulat.
The visitors counter-attacked and created a chance in the 10th minute but defender V.R. Raghunath cleared the ball from the Indian striking circle.
The home team earned the first penalty corner in the 12th minute but Raghunath was easily stopped by Jessulat.
India came out with their best hockey in a long time. The coordination was much better than their last two outings against England and New Zealand as they passed better and attacked more.
Germany got their first penalty corner in the 16th minute but Indian goalie P.R. Sreejesh was successful in keeping the score 0-0.
Surprising everyone, India took the lead in the 19th minute when Raghunath’s free hit from the 25 yard line was touched by a German player before hitting the net. The four-time Olympic champions, however, equalised when skipper Oliver Korn scored through a field goal in the 24th minute.
India missed out their second penalty corner too when Raghunath’s shot was once again saved by the German goalie.
However, it was third time lucky for India as a 33nd minute drag-flick by defender Rupinder Singh, later named man of the match, put India ahead once again and the eight-time Olympic champions went into the break leading 2-1.
Germany drew first blood in the second period, equalising in the 41st minute when a hit from outside the box was given as an own goal by the umpire. India asked for a video referral but the umpire’s decision stood.
India earned another penalty corner 11 minutes later, taken by Raghunath, which was again stopped by Jessulat but the deflection found Dharamvir Singh, who did not waste a second to put the ball inside the German goal and take a 3-2 lead.
India could have extended the lead when they infiltrated the European defence but S.V. Sunil’s shot just went wide of the post (58th minute).
India was snatched of a historic win when Thilo Stralkowski field goal in the 68th minute drew parity at 3-3.
Germany sensed India’s laxity and took advantage by pushing the ball past keeper Sreejesh.
At the end of the league phase, England top the group with nine points, Germany are second (4), New Zealand third (3) and hosts India with the one point finish fourth.
India will take on Pool B toppers and reigning World Champions Australia in the quarterfinal Wednesday.