Bhubaneswar: India lived up to their billing and thrashed South Africa 5-1 in the summit clash to win the FIH Series Finals hockey tournament here Saturday. Coming into the tournament as overwhelming favourites, world no. 5 India played like champions and remained unbeaten throughout the tournament.
Dragflickers Varun Kumar (2nd and 49th minutes) and Harmanpreet Singh (11th and 25th) scored a brace each, while Vivek Sagar Prasad (35th) was the other goal scorer for India. South Africa’s lone goal was scored by Richard Pautz in the 53rd minute.
India and South Africa have already qualified for the final round of the Olympic qualifiers before Saturday’s summit clash. Earlier in the day, Asian Games champion Japan defeated USA 4-2 to finish third in the competition. The top two finishers of this tournament make it to the final round of the Olympic qualifiers to be held later this year.
Going by world rankings, the Indians were expected to control the proceedings and they exactly did that from the word go. India secured their first penalty corner as early as in the second minute and Varun made no mistake in converting the opportunity into goal. In the 11th minute, India got another penalty corner and this time Harmanpreet slammed home to make the scoreline 2-0 in favour of the hosts. Seconds before the end of the first quarter, South Africa got a rare opportunity but Nqobile Ntuli’s reverse hit was kept away by Krishan Bahadur Pathak in front of the Indian goal. Five minutes from half time, India were awarded a penalty stroke when Birendra Lakra was stick-checked inside South Africa’s ‘D’ by Jethro Eustice and Harmanpreet made no mistake to make the scoreline 3-0.