New Delhi: Seven days of exciting Round 2 action from the FIH World League here came to a happy ending for the hosts with both their men and women teams progressing to Round 3, which serves as the semi-finals for the league as well as the qualifier for the 2014 World Cup.
After the women's team beat Russia 2-1, it was the turn of Sardar Singh-led men who blanked Bangladesh 5-1 to stay unbeaten with their fifth win in a row. Both the men and women teams finished on top of the table in the round-robin format to progress to Round 3.
The men were up against a spirited Bangladesh side that even took lead in the 5th minute through a penalty corner strike by defender Mamunur Chayan. But India, who expectedly finished the tournament unbeaten, started their comeback in the 15th minute led by Danish Mujtaba's brace.
Rupinderpal Singh scored off India's second penalty corner in the 31st minute to give India a 2-1 lead at the breather. But strikes from Akashdeep Singh (51st), Malak Singh (58th) and Mujtaba (64th) ended all Bangladesh hopes of an upset.
After the Bangla boys surprised India to open the scoring, the hosts took time to gather themselves. India's sluggish display was evident in the seven penalty corners they earned, where Raghunath failed to breach the Bangladeshi defence and Rupinder could convert just one. But credit must also be given to Bangladesh wall at the back, especially goalkeeper Mohammad Zahid Hossain, who had a terrific game under the post.
It took India 10 minutes to draw level after Bangladesh's surprise strike, when Danish deflected Raghunath's long ball from down the middle into the goal. Rupinder then found the top right corner of Bangladesh goal to put India ahead 2-1 off their second penalty corner.
It was a different India in the second half, though erroneous finishing continued to let India down. Nithin Thimmaiah and Mandeep Singh were in particular off colour, spilling a number of goal-scoring opportunities. But Akashdeep didn't disappoint and converted a cross from Harbir Singh into goal.
Malak got India's fourth goal when his deflection found its way through a sea of Bangladeshi defenders into the goal. Danish gave the final shape to the scoreline with his second goal and India's fifth. But it was Sardar Singh who was the architect of that strike, going past three defenders before setting up Danish for the finishing job.
Sardar was also adjudged the Player of the Tournament, while Raghunath got the award for joint highest scorer of the tournament along with Allen Sothern of Ireland. Both scored eight goals.
India finished top of the table with 15 points, followed by Ireland (12), Bangladesh (9), China (6), Oman (3) and Fiji (0).
Awards in men's competition:
Top Goal-Scorer: VR Raghunath (IND) and Alan Sothern (IRL)
Player of the Tournament: Sardar Singh (IND)
Best Goalkeeper: David Harte (IRL)
Best Defender: VR Raghunath (IND)
Best Midfielder: Mahmud Rashel (BAN)
Best Forward: Allen Sothern (IRL)
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