Sam Ward’s stunning strike secured England’s first win of the Odisha World League Finals in a thrilling game against India.
The hosts looked like they had completed a remarkable comeback as Akashdeep Singh and Rupinder Singh struck in the final quarter to wipe away England’s initial two goal lead after earlier goals from Ward and David Goodfield.
But with just three minutes remaining David Condon found Beeston’s Ward in the circle before the forward smashed the ball into the roof of the net to hand England a first win against India in the south Asian country since January 2014.
After the game Ward said that having team-mates Brendan Creed and Harry Martin back from illness – having missed the opening game with Germany – was crucial to their victory.
“It helped having a few more players. Obviously yesterday we were three down so having them back made a big difference,” the Player of the Match said. “We had to grind them down and it was fantastic to get the result.”
Both teams started at a lively tempo and created early chances, Akashdeep forcing Harry Gibson into a second minute save before Goodfield scuffed a golden opportunity wide shortly after.
India then nearly took the lead at the start of the second period only for Chinglensana Kangujam to completely miss the target.
Mark Gleghorne’s penalty corner – England’s first of the tournament – was then well charged down in the 25th minute but seconds later England took the league after Goodfield’s cross was diverted into his own goal by goalkeeper Suraj Karkera.
That goal stunned a previously vociferous home crowd into silence but they awoke four minutes after half-time as Gibson produced a marvellous save to keep out a well hit strike from the edge of the circle.
However they went quiet once again two minutes before the end of the third quarter as Ward scored his 20th goal for England, taking full advantage as Harmanpreet Singh failed to control a routine aerial in his own circle by sliding the ball past Karkera.
The defender almost immediately made amends a minute later as Gibson kept out a penalty corner that sparked India into life as they won another at the start of the final period of play.
George Pinner did well to keep out Rupinder’s initial effort but the ball bounced up kindly for Akashdeep to nudge into the England goal.
Three minutes later – and spurred on by the partisan home support – India levelled the scores as Rupinder snuck a vicious flick in between Pinner and Barry Middleton on the goal line.
The drama was not finished there though as both teams continued to press hard, with Condon thinking he should have been given a penalty corner with four minutes remaining after a powerful run.
He controlled his frustration at the decision well though and played an instrumental part in setting up the winner by playing an intelligent pass to Ward, who did well to manufacture some room before unleashing an unstoppable effort to win the game.
Starting XI: Harry Gibson (GK), Henry Weir, Sam Ward, Mark Gleghorne, Phil Roper (C), Adam Dixon, Barry Middleton, Brendan Creed, David Goodfield, David Condon, Liam Sanford,
Subs (Used): George Pinner (GK), Luke Taylor, Harry Martin, Liam Ansell, Chris Griffiths, James Gall