New Delhi, Feb 21 (IANS) India were lucky to escape with a 3-2 win over Ireland and continued their winning streak in the men's Hero Hockey World League Round 2 at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here Thursday.
Having won 16-0 against Fiji and 9-1 against Oman, India for the first time in the tournament were up against some serious challenge in Ireland, who are ranked just four places below the hosts at World No.15.
Rupinder Singh gave India the lead from a penalty corner in the 16th minute. V.R. Raghunath (39th) and Dharamvir Singh (56th) struck in a nervy second half. Conor Harte (27th) and Eugene Magee (51st) sounded the board for Ireland.
With the win, India remained on top of the table with nine points followed by Ireland, who have six points. The top two teams will qualify for the third round of the World League, which is a qualifying tournament for the 2014 World Cup.A
For India, it was a lucky escape despite an unimpressive performance. The center-half lacked the creativity while the defenders were lagging in energy. They were completely outpaced by a supremely fit Irish team and the defence cracked under was wave of swift attacks.
It was an inspiring performance by the Irish boys, who came back twice to equalize and maintained the pressure on the hosts. Ireland made the good use of the flanks to launch their attacks and made regular inroads in the Indian citadel. They almost stretched the match to the shoot-out but failed to make the most of the two penalty corners they earned in the last minute.
Unlike their previous encounters, India had to wait long to take the lead. They squandered three penalty corners they achieved within the first eight minutes.
India went ahead in the 15th minute after Rupinder fired in a low flick. Ireland were determined to draw parity and earned three back-to-back penalty corners. They finally sounded the board in the third attempt after Harte struck from a variation to make it 1-1.
In the second half, Ireland showed more intent while India played a waiting game. Within five minutes, India went 2-1 up after Raghunath converted a short-corner.
But Ireland were also quick to come to level quickly as Magee deflected in a hard-hitting shot from Christopher Cargos. It took a minute for India to snatch back the lead with Dharmvir firing in after being set-up by Mandeep.