THE INDIAN U21 team led by Captain Harjeet Singh emerged victorious in a Semi Final match against Australia at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium here today.
In a high-octane contest that saw fortunes shift, India held on to their nerves as the Semi Final was decided via a shoot-out that swung in India's favour. The Indian colts will now face Belgium in the Final match of the Uttar Pradesh Hockey Junior World Cup Men Lucknow 2016.
The Burras began the match with aggression, scoring a PC goal in the 14th minute with the help of a reverse hit from Tom Craig. Backed by a solid defence and remarkable athleticism from goalkeeper Ashleigh Thomas, Australia went into halftime leading India 1-0.
A sheer piece of brilliance from Gurjant Singh in the 42nd minute saw India draw level against the Burras, as he darted towards the Australian circle and unleashed a powerful strike that went past Thomas. A determined Indian side gained the lead in the 48th minute as Mandeep Singh's clever stick work saw India go 2-1 up.
Indian goalkeeper Vikas Dahiya was outstanding in his saves, as India denied Australia any opportunity to convert their Penalty Corners. However, in the 57th minute, a skillful deflection from Lachlan Sharp gave Australia the equalizer and the match was poised for an exciting finish. At the end of 70 minutes, the scores were tied 2-2 with both teams heading for a shoot-out.
Once again Vikas Dahiya rose to the occasion, stopping shots from Matthew Bird and Lachlan Sharp even as Blake Govers and Jack Welch's were successful. The Indian colts, on the other hand, struck four times out of four with Captain Harjeet Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Sumit, and Manpreet (Jnr) guiding India to the Finals.
Goalkeeper Vikas Dahiya was presented the Man of the Match award from Mr Ram Sakal Gurjar, Hon. Minister of State (Independent Charge), Sports and Youth Welfare, Government of Uttar Pradesh.
Earlier on Day 9, Belgium overcame Germany in the first Semi Final as the Red Cougars' goalkeeper Loic Van Doren was the hero in the shoot-out. Germany and Australia will now compete in the Bronze medal match.
In the first Semi Final, Belgium’s Red Cougars were marginally the better team in the opening half, with Germany goalkeeper Lennart Küppers being forced into making two smart saves from the lively Thomas Verheijen. Germany looked a different side in the second half, with the exceptional Timm Herzbruch causing the Belgian defence plenty of problems and keeping shot-stopper Loic van Doren extremely active. Belgium took an early lead in the shoot-out when Loic van Doren forced an error from Philip Schmid, but a fine save from Germany’s Niklas Garst left things level after four rounds. The decisive moment arrived when Van Doren denied Timm Herzbruch, before Robbert Rubens slammed the ball home to send an elated Belgium into their first men’s Junior World Cup Final.
Earlier in the day, a late strike from Koji Yamasaki gave Japan a 2-1 victory over Asian rivals Korea and they sealed a 13th place finish in the competition. Kota Watanabe scored in the 55th minute to give Japan the lead, but Korea restored parity courtesy Seyong Oh. Yamasaki’s goal arrived from an extended penalty corner, winning Japan the game.
Egypt were winners of the 15th/16th place play-offs, defeating Canada 2-1 in the opening match of the day. Rohan Chopra gave Canada the lead at the end of the first half before Mohamed Gadelkarim’s penalty corner drag-flick levelled the scores with 12 minutes remaining. Ahmed Elganaini hit the winner three minutes from the end of the match, cracking a fierce backhand effort into the top right corner to seal a 15th place finish for the African nation.
15th/16th Place: Egypt 2 vs Canada 1.
13th/14th Place: Japan 2 vs Korea 1.
Semi-Final: Belgium 0 vs Germany 0. (Belgium win 4-3 in shoot-out)
Semi-Final: Australia 2 vs India 2. (India win 4-2 in shoot-out)
Note: India will face Belgium in the Final match on Sunday, 18 December 2016 at 18.00 hrs IST.