India beat Spain to enter semis of Hockey Junior World Cup

Lucknow, Dec 15 (IANS) Home favourites India overcame Spain 2-1 to set up a semi-final clash against Australia in the Hockey Junior World Cup at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium here on Thursday.

Marc Serrahima’s successful penalty conversion had given Spain a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute. But India fought back in the second half with penalty corner conversions from Simranjeet Singh (57th) and Harmanpreet Singh (66th) to march into the last four stage.

After this win, Harendra Singh-coached India will face the task of going past Australia, who got the better of European powerhouse the Netherlands 2-1.

The last time India reached the semi-final of the tournament was in 2005 in Rotterdam. They had finished fourth then.

The other semi-final will be played between double defending champion Germany and Belgium. While Germany eased past England 4-2, Belgium edged past Argentina 4-1 (1-1) via penalty shoot-out.

The match between India and Spain turned out to be a tough fight and the European team stifled the hosts with strong man-to-man marking. Spain curbed India’s flair and managed to keep them at bay.

India got a couple of penalty corners but due to technical flaws like poor trapping and bad execution, they were not fruitful.

Spain, meanwhile took the lead after earning a penalty corner in the 22nd minute. Serrahima’s powerful flick to the right low corner beat Indian goalkeeper Vikash Dahiya to give Spain a 1-0 lead, much to the frustration of the decent crowd in attendance.

Spain managed to keep their lead till the half-time and in the second half, it seemed the equaliser was difficult to come by as the Indians kept making a mess of penalty corner opportunities.

But in the 57th minute, it changed. Even though it was a poorly executed penalty corner, Sumit managed to hit a powerful blow straight at the Spanish goalkeeper Albert Perez, who blocked it before the ball popped out. Simranjeet tapped the ball in quickly before the goalkeeper could react to make it 1-1.

After the equaliser, the confidence of the Indians grew and with the crowd behind them, they pushed hard for the lead.

Nine minutes later, Harmanpreet made amends for his earlier mistakes to fire a grounder past Perez to make it 2-1 as the crowd erupted in joy. The strike marked the third goal for Harmanpreet, who was being criticised for his poor penalty corner conversions in the 16-nation tournament.

–IANS

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