India trounce Russia to get Olympic qualifiers off to a fine start

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Santiago (Chile) Mar 2 (UNI) Prabhjot Singh fired three goals as India put up a spectacular display of attacking hockey to thrash Russia 8-0 in their opening match of the Olympic hockey qualifying tournament here today.

India, who dominated proceedings throughout, ran the Russian defence ragged and came tantalisingly close to several more goals with the forwards wasting some easy chances.

The Indians opened the floodgates in the 14th minute as Dilip Tirkey rammed in a penalty corner.

They increased their lead soon after as a Sardar Singh pass found an unmarked Prabhjot Singh (19th) inside the penalty circle who hit the target from close range.

Prabhjot, who put up a good performance, was in the thick of things again in the 27th minute as he almost scored with a rasping reverse flick but was denied by the Russian goalkeeper who produced a fine save to deny him.

Prabhjot, however, could not be denied for long. Rajpal Singh charged in from the mid-field and produced a defence splitting pass which found Prabhjot unmarked on the left with just the goalkeeper to beat.

The striker made no mistake, slamming in a low shot at the far post.

Shivendra Singh joined the party as he scored a spectacular goal few minutes before half-time. Picking up a pass in the mid-field, he dribbled past three defenders and unleashed a powerful reverse flick from 15 metres as India went into the break with an unassailable 4-0 lead.

In the second half, the reigning Asia champions scored within a minute of the re-start as Tushar Khandekar cut in from the right, beat a defender and fired into the far post.

India scored again a few minutes later when Tushar dribbled in from the right flank and found an unmarked Sardar Singh in the penalty area who shot home from close range.

Penalty corner specialist VR Raghunath scored the seventh goal as he pumped in a powerful drag-flick into the top right corner while Prabhjot completed the tally a few minutes before the end.

Meahwhile, Great Britain, one of India's closest rivals for the one ticket to Beijing available from this tournament, were also in ominous form, disposing of Mexico 11-0 while Austria pipped hosts Chile 4-3.

India will now take on Austria in their next match tomorrow.

UNI XC AB BST0714

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