Monday, August 15, 2022

‘We’re getting closer’: Wales think positive after falling to India

Birmingham — A third straight win at a Commonwealth Games over Wales saw India into the hockey semi-finals of the men’s event. For Wales, a classification to finish fifth. How they will want to finish here on a high.

India’s firepower merchant, Harmanpreet Singh, recorded a fine hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Wales, who had early injury fears to Gareth Furlong, who limped off in the first quarter but returned to net a late consolation.

“For us, it’s about understanding how we take on a top 10 team,” said Luke Hawker afterwards.  “We’re getting closer – if you go back to the Europeans [in 2021], we were a long way off, and here I think we’re a lot closer to England and India than we have been.

“Our win against Canada earlier in the week was the first time we won a game in the group stages of the Commonwealth Games. We take a huge amount of confidence from that. Hopefully it is a sign of things to come.”

Right now, it is Harmanpreet’s stick which is India’s sign. His opener, a low PC stroke, was less celebration, more focus and task in hand. They still had a job to do. But when he changed direction and flicked mid-height into the net, a minute later, they were closing in on the semi-finals.

Wales did have their moments. James Carson tapped back for Rupert Shipperley, but the ball bobbled awkwardly and carried between his legs.

India were awarded a stroke for a body on the line (Dan Kyriakides) from another Indian corner. It went upstairs and after another lengthy video referral process, Harmanpreet scooped high and fast for his hat-trick and ninth goal of an increasingly impressive tournament.

Shipperley was visibly gasping for air at the end of the third quarter, yet the Welsh heads were certainly not dropping.

Gurjant Singh directed goalwards for India’s fourth, while Furlong was finally handed the chance from a corner with 10 minutes remaining. Furlong doesn’t miss much and with a back leg lift slotted down the middle.

“We will get our legs back under us and then be aiming for fifth place in the next game [on Sunday],” added Hawker.

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