Skipper Manpreet Singh led from the front with a brace to guide India to a hard-fought 3-1 win over Poland in the ongoing FIH Series Finals hockey tournament in Bhubaneswar on Friday. After a barren first quarter, Manpreet scored in the 21st and 26th minutes while drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh converted a penalty corner in the 36th minute as India registered its second consecutive win of the tournament. Poland's lone goal was scored by Mateusz Hulboj in the 25th minute. Even though the world no. 5 India managed to secure its second win on the trot, it was far from impressive, especially after thrashing world no. 21 Poland 10-0 in the Azlan Shah Cup less than three months ago.
The Indians, as usual, were slow to get off the blocks as Poland got the first scoring opportunity in the form of a penalty corner in the very first minute but the opportunity went in vain. The Indians then slowly and steadily got into the groove but the Polish defended in numbers to deny the hosts.
India's first shy at the goal came in the sixth minute when Mandeep Singh teamed up with Akashdeep Singh to create a chance but the latter's attempt was cleared off the line by Polish goalkeeper Maciej Pacanowski. It took India 20 minutes to earn first penalty corner but Harmanpreet Singh's try was saved by the Polish custodian. A minute later, India secured another penalty corner and this time Manpreet scored from a rebound after Amit Rohidas' initial flick was blocked by Pacanowski.
Another short corner came in India's way two minutes later but they wasted the chance while going for variation. Poland stunned India in the 25th minute to draw level, courtesy a defensive lapse from Hardik Singh, who failed to stop Joseph Hillyer's pass from outside the D and got a deflection which fell in front of Hulboj and he made no mistake in slotting the ball home. But Poland's joy was shortlived as India restored their lead within a minute when Manpreet scored his second goal of the day after a fine one-touch play with Simranjeet Singh on the right flank to go into the breather leading by a slender margin.
Six minutes into the third quarter, India extended the scoreline when Harmanpreet neatly converted a penalty corner. The Indian earned another penalty corner minutes later but wasted the opportunity. The third quarter was all about India's misfiring forward line as despite creating numerous scoring opportunities the strikers lacked in finishing. India will take on Uzbekistan in its last pool match on June 10, while Poland, who defeated the Uzbeks 4-0 in their opener, will face Russia on Sunday.