New Delhi, 24 September: Title contender India opened their campaign on a spectacular note blanking Uzbekistan 16-0 in the Asian Games Pool A hockey match at the Gongshu Canal Sports Park Stadium in Hangzhou, China on Sunday.
Lalit Upadhyay (7’, 24’ 37’, 53’), Varun Kumar (12’, 36’, 50’, 52’), Abhishek (17’), Mandeep Singh (18’, 27’, 28’) Amit Rohidas (38’), Sukhjeet (42’), Shamsher Singh (43’) and Sanjay (57’) were the scorers in this commanding win.
The top two from each pool will make the semi-finals.
World ranked 3rd, India, came into the Hangzhou Games on the back of their Asian Champions Trophy title win last month.
India, despite starting without captain Harmanpreet Singh, went on the offensive right from the start forcing world No. 66 Uzbekistan to defend deep. The constant pressure from men in blue on Uzbekistan’s goal yielded results immediately.
Seven minutes into the match, Lalit Upadhyay beat the Uzbek goalkeeper from a penalty corner to make it 1-0. Minutes later, Varun Kumar doubled the lead from another penalty corner. The first quarter ended with the scoreboard reading 2-0.
India continued dominating play in the second quarter as well and scored two quick field goals through Abhishek and Mandeep Singh. Lalit Upadhyay scored his second and the team’s fifth goal from a close range.
Mandeep Singh then netted two goals in two minutes to notch up his hat-trick as India took an unbeatable 7-0 lead into half-time.
After the break, a relentless India added nine more goals to the tally and completed a 16-0 rout.
India will play Singapore next on Tuesday.
The hockey tournament at the Asian Games 2023 is also an Olympic qualifier with the eventual champion securing a berth to Paris 2024.