Indian men's hockey team came out of their slumber and complacency at the right time to register 4-2 victory over lowly ranked Russia in the first of the two-legged Olympic qualifier being played at Bhubaneshwar's Kalinga Stadium on Friday night. Mandeep Singh scored a brace to script the victory though not so convincing as Russia kept 56 percent of the ball possession and played more aggressively than the Indians. India now needs to either win draw or lose by less than 2-goal difference in the second & final leg at the same venue on Saturday night to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics next year.
India started the match rather sluggishly allowing Russia to play freely and the worrying part was visiting team having 56 percent of the ball possession India relied heavily on counter-attack mode and almost managed to score early in the first quarter as the move was foiled by a brilliant save from the Russian goalkeeper. India took a review soon after Mandeep was stopped "illegally." The TV umpire ruled in India's favor and asked the referee to award India a penalty stroke. Harmanpreet made most of the penalty stroke by putting it past the Russian goalkeeper to give India an early lead. Russia started the second quarter in tremendous style as they score an early goal to cancel out Harmanpreet Singh's opening goal. India quickly got into the lead as Mandeep Singh scored in the 24th minute of the match to restore India's one-goal lead.
The third quarter ends goalless and India still lead by just one goal as the scoreline remains at 2-1. Sunil scored early in the fourth quarter to extend India's lead to two goals followed by Mandeep Singh field goal as India led 4-1. Russia pulled one goal back in the final minute of the match with a final scoreline of 4-2.