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Hockey team suffers fifth straight loss on medalless day

PTI 07 Aug 2012, 22:45:41 IST
London, Aug 7: Indian hockey plumbed new depths when it's men's team suffered a fifth straight loss in Group B to complete the league engagements without a point while triple jumper Renjit Maheshwary flopped and boxing hope Vijender Singh was knocked out in the quarterfinals on Day 11 of the Olympic Games, today.

The dismal campaign of Michael Nobbs' men continued as they slumped to a humiliating 0-3 loss to Belgium to finish at the bottom of the pool without a point and a win, an unprecendented happening.

After having regained its berth in the hockey competition at the Games, an arena it had dominated in the distant past and won 8 gold medals—including six on the trot—the team had failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games.

This time around the team managed to win the Olympic qualifiers in Delhi and was feted like champions only to see their dream turning out into a nightmare here.

The demoralised team coached by Nobbs would now have to avoid finishing last in the 12-team tournament when it takes on the Group A wooden spooners South Africa in the 11-12 placings contest on August 11.

The country's dwindling campaign also suffered a setback when Beijing Games bronze medallist Vijender was sent packing from the 75kg competition by his long-time Uzbek rival and former world 81 kg champion Abbos Atoev who earned a 17-13 verdict to reach the semis.

Vijender was bundled out of the ring by Atoev, a rival whom the Indian had vanquished in the final of the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, with a 7-0 verdict in a late night bout yesterday.

The 26-year-old boxing star's elimination came on the heels of “Magnificent” Mary Kom's grand entry into the semi-finals of the 51kg division of the women's event to temper Indian celebrations.

Renjith Maheshwary was a super flop in the triple-jump pit as he fouled all his attempts and had a no mark put against his name.

After the elimination of this duo, medal hopes for the day rested with discus thrower Vikas Gowda who was set to make his appearance in the finals featuring 12 men later.

The Indian strikers repeatedly broke into the Belgian circle, but failed to breach the defence and only earned two penalty corners in the whole match, which too could not produce a goal.

Belgium, on the other hand, capitalised on the openings that allowed their strikers time and space inside the Indian scoring zone.

At the start, play was confined to the midfield before Belgium earned their first penalty corner in the 12th minute, but it posed no danger as the rising shot hit an onrushing Indian defender.

Two minutes later, India first broke into the rival circle, but the Belgians crowded the zone and did not allow the Indian strikers to have a shy at the goal.

Belgium went ahead in the 15th minute as the Indian defence's poor positioning left Jerome Dekeyser unmarked at the top of the circle and gave him enough time to receive a well-measured diagonal ball. Dekeyser took one step into the circle and beat onrushing goalkeeper Bharat Chetri with a rasping shot that went high into the goal.

Indian defence appeared shaky as Belgium again went into the Indian circle two minutes later, but the shot was directed wide to the relief of the defenders.

India earned their first penalty corner in the 21st minute, but ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh did not take the shot. Instead an indirect attempt was made in which Sardar Singh pushed the ball toward Gurbaz Singh, whose deflection went into the sideboards.

India came back into the match midway in the first session, but the Belgians held on. Tushar Khandker had two shots at the goal from top of the circle in the 22nd minute, when the ball rebounded off the post on the first occasion and then Belgian goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch padded the second attempt.

Right winger S V Sunil broke into the circle a minute later, but shot straight into the goalkeeper.