Bhubaneswar: Indian Men’s Hockey Team qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after thrashing Russia 7-1 (11-3 on aggregate) in the second game of the two-legged FIH Qualifiers for men here on Saturday.
World No. 5, Indian men had earlier defeated World No. 22 Russia 4-2 in the first-leg on Friday. The men’s team also joined the women’s team which defeated USA 6-5 on aggregate to qualify for the sporting extravaganza this evening.
Akashdeep Singh (23rd and 29th minutes) and Rupinder Pal Singh (48th, 59th) scored a brace each, while Lalit Upadhyay (17th), Nilkanta Sharma (47th) and Amit Rohidas (60th) struck after Russia took an early lead in the opening minute through Alexey Sobolevskiy.
After a slow start, the Indians intensified the pressure on Russia’s goal but were unable to create clear chances. Russia, on the other hand, looked dangerous on counter-attacks as the hosts trailed by a goal in the opening quarter.
India equalised in the 21st minute through a field strike by Lalit Upadhyay, who deflected in a Hardik Singh shot. The Indians upped their ante and took the lead in the 23rd minute when Akashdeep scored following a penalty corner.
India went into the halfway break with a comfortable 7-3 lead over Russia on aggregate, courtesy three strikes in the second quarter.
In the 44th minute, Ramandeep Singh missed a big opportunity to increase India’s lead as his attempt went wide. There was no stopping the Indians after the initial hiccup as they added four more goals in the final quarter to add to Russia’s agony.
Nilakanta scored with a powerful shot into the top left angle of the goal in the 47th minute before Rupinder converted a penalty corner in the very next minute.
The berth more or less secured, India pumped in two more goals in the final two minutes of the game through penalty corner conversions by Rupinder and Rohidas.