Rotterdam: Rupinderpal Singh scored two goals as India survived a scare before eking out a 4-4 draw against lower-ranked Ireland in a hard-fought Pool B match in the men's competition of the FIH World League Round 3, here on Thursday.
Rupinderpal (40th, 66th minute) converted two penalty corners in the second half to save India the blushes after Akashdeep Singh (21st) and Shivendra Singh (47th) scored two field goals. For Ireland, Alan Sothern (25th), Paul Gleghorne (30th), Andrew McConnell (64th) scored three field goals while the other came from a penalty corner conversion by Conor Harte in the 57th minute.
Even though India (11) are ranked four places higher than Ireland (15) in the world rankings, it didn't really show in their game today. The defensive line has been their perennial problem and the area once again came to hound India against the Irish, who looked impressive and threatening in the entire 70 minutes.
There was clear lack of co-ordination between the Indian mid-field and forwardline, at least in the opening half, and they were also guilty of giving away the ball far more easily to their opponents. The Indians, however, surged ahead in the 21st minute when Akashdeep trapped a cross from Mandeep and slammed home a winner with a fierce hit from top of the circle. India's joy, however, remained shortlived as Ireland drew parity four minutes later when Sothern scooped over a charging Indian goalie P R Sreejesh after some fine stick work on the left flank.
India soon got their first penalty corner but Sandeep Singh flick was brilliantly saved by goalkeeper David Harte. Ireland rubbed salt on India's wounds in the 30th minute when Gleghorne scored to give his side a 2-1 lead. The Indian defence was yet again caught napping by Ireland's fast attacking moves as an unmarked Gleghorne scored from close range.
The Indians, however, came out with more purpose and looked far more organised in the second half. The break seemed to have worked wonders for India as Rupinderpal drew parity just five minutes into the second half converting their second penalty corner. Veteran striker Shivendra Singh, who made a comeback to the Indian team here after the London Olympics, then celebrated his birthday in style, beautifully deflecting home a diagonal pass from V R Raghunath in the 47th minute to give India a 3-2 lead.
But the Irishmen were in no mood to be bogged down by the twin strikes as they fought back strongly. First, Harte utilised one of their four penalty corners and then a diving McConnell tapped in to brighten the prospect of an upset win over India. But it was not to be as Rupinderpal came to India's rescue two minutes later, converting India's third penalty corner with a high flick to the left of Irish custodian Harte. India will play hosts The Netherlands in their next match on Saturday, while Ireland will be up against New Zealand.