Playing their first international match in over 12 months, the Indian men's hockey team put up a scintillating show as it outclassed hosts Germany 6-1 in the first of the four-match Europe Tour on Sunday.
For the P.R. Sreejesh-led team, Nilakanta Sharma (13th minute), Vivek Sagar Prasad (27th, 28th), Lalit Kumar Upadhyay (41th), Akashdeep Singh (42nd) and Harmanpreet Singh (47th) found the net to spript a memorable win.
Hungry to perform, India played with an intent to win. They went on an attacking mode right from the start and put pressure on the German line-up. After creating potential opportunities in the striking zone, India earned a penalty corner in the 13th minute of the first quarter, which saw midfielder Nilakanta Sharma breaking the deadlock for the visitors.
However, in the next minute, German forward Constantin Staib scored an equaliser.
The second quarter started with the hosts putting pressure on India, earning two back-to-back penalty corners in the initial minutes. The Indian side made brilliant saves and launched quick counter-attacks which led to midfielder Vivek Sagar Prasad scoring two back-to-back goals in the 27th and 28th minute, swelling India's lead to 3-1 at half-time.
In the third quarter, the hosts started on the front foot again and earned as many as six penalty corners. However, the Indian defence led by Sreejesh held sway to thwart each of the German attempts. Soon after a solid display in defence, Indian forwards Lalit Kumar Upadhyay and Akashdeep Singh netted brilliant goals in the 41st and 42nd minute, respectively, to put the world No. 4 India in the driver's seat.
Another glorious opportunity came India's way at the 47th minute in the form of a penalty corner, which saw a direct flick from Harmanpreet Singh giving India a 6-1 lead. Playing under pressure, the hosts did try hard to make a comeback, and they even pulled out their goalkeeper to put an extra attacker in the team but a great overall performance from the Indian side ensured a 6-1 victory.
"It was absolutely thrilling to play after so long and the coach's advice to us was 'go and enjoy the game', and so we did. This was the same German side which played in the FIH Hockey Pro League matches, and I feel we did well against this squad, considering we were playing after a year," Sreejesh said after the team's scintillating performance.
"We had worked a lot on individual skills and had planned tactical play against Germany in the camp. We just had to execute it today and it was really exciting to be back with a win," he added.
After a day's break, India and Germany will play the second match on Tuesday.