Lucknow: Rated as strong favourites for the title, hosts India started their campaign on a resounding note spanking Canada 4-0 in their opening Pool D match of the Junior Hockey World Cup at the Major Dhyan Chand Astroturf Stadium, here on Thursday.
India were by far the better side on display and scored through Mandeep Singh (35th minute), Harmanpreet Singh (46th), Varun Kumar (60th) and Ajit Pandey (66th) to collect full three points from the encounter.
There was always uncertainty about the conduct of the match late in the evening due to dense fog, which forced the International Hockey Federation to start the game 15 minutes early.
Going by form and expectations, India were considered as overwhelming favourites against Canada and the hosts started on expected note even though they were little shaky and nervous to start with.
But as time progressed, the Indian colts got their acts together and started attacking the Canadian defense relentlessly.
Canada, who has 13 Indian origin players in its 18-member squad, on the other hand were pretty happy to sit back and defend and rely on counter attacks to surprise the Indians.
The hosts had the first chance in the fourth minute but Armaan Qureshi reverse hit from close range struck the side netting.
India earned two back-to-back penalty corners in the 12th minute but on both occasion Harmanpreet Singh’s tries were saved by Canadian custodian Iqwinder Gill.
Injury-return Mandeep Singh, who played for the senior side on many occasions in the past, then came close to giving India the lead but his reverse shot from a goal mouth melee was saved by Candaian goalkeeper Gill.
It continued to be a story of missed chances for India, this time Parvinder Singh, who hit the left wood work from Sumit’s pass from inside the circle.
India finally tasted success in the final minute of the first half through Mandeep, who found himself in the right position at the right time to hand India the lead from a move that was initiated by Harmanpreet.
India stepped up the pressure after the change of ends and missed a few chances in the initial periods of the second half.
In the 44th minute skipper Harjeet Singh missed when he shot wide from inside the circle.
India were awarded a penalty stroke after Canadian defense wrongly saved Varun’s flick from their fourth penalty corner and Harmanpreet stood up to double the lead.
Varun then registered his name in the scoresheet by scoring from India's fifth penalty corner after Harjeet fumbled in stopping the push. Four Minutes from the final hooter, Ajit made the scoreline 4-0 in favour of India after receiving a pass from Manpreet (Jr).
India will play England in their next pool match on Saturday. Earlier in the day, England defeated South Africa 4-2 in another Pool C encounter.
For England Edward Horler (5th, 9th) converted two penalty corners while Peter Scott (11th), Jonathan Griffiths (62nd) were the other goal getters....