New Delhi: Already assured of a place in the summit clash, favourites India had to sweat it out to keep their unbeaten run in the tournament defeating Poland 4-2 in the final round-robin match of the men's hockey Olympic qualifiers on Friday. (Agencies)
With this victory, India not only maintained a clean slate in the tournament, but also dashed Poland's London dreams as the European side needed atleast a draw or a win to secure their place in Sunday's final.
Poland's defeat means 18th ranked France will be India's opponent in the title clash after the later held Canada to a 1-1 draw in an earlier game.
Contrary to the final scoreline, the Indians were made to toil hard for the victory by the Polish team.
Even though India had the lions' share of possession in the match, they were far from impressive as they wasted numerous scoring chances, courtesy some poor finishing from the forwards.
The home team also cut a sorry figure during penalty corners as they converted just three out of the nine they earned in the match. On the other hand, Poland utilized two out of their three penalty corners.
Credit must also go to Polish custodian Mariusz Chyla, who was brilliant and denied the Indians on numerous occasions.
Sandeep Singh (26th and 70th minutes) once again starred for India, converting two penalty corners to take his personal goal tally in the tournament to 11.
Apart from Sandeep, experienced striker Shivendra Singh (59th) and VR Raghunath (65th) scored the other goals for India. For Poland Tomasz Dutkiewcz (13th) and Miroslaw Juszczak (63rd) sounded the board.
The 10th ranked Indians started on an aggressive note and mounted continuous raids into the Polish citadel from the word go.
The Indians got their first scoring chance in the ninth minute but the Polish custodian Chyla came up with a double save to deny the hosts.
Chyla first blocked Shivendra's shot from close range after the Indian striker was set up by a one-two from Tushar and Danish, and then the Polish goalkeeper brilliantly saved Sarvanjit's reverse shot from the subsequent rebound.
But it was Poland who stunned the moderate crowd present at the floodlit Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here, taking the lead in the 14th minute from their very first attack.
Poland scored against the run of the mill when Dutkiewicz converted their only penalty corner of the opening period with a beautiful dummy.
Jolted by the early goal, India pressed hard for the equalizer and in the process earned two penalty corners in quick succession, but failed to convert a single one as the Polish goalkeeper came up some stunning saves.
The Indian then earned two more penalty corners in a span of two minutes and from the fourth one Sandeep scored to go into the breather locked at 1-1.
The script was the same after the resumption of play as India continued to dominate the proceedings with consistent raids, but goals eluded them as their strikers lacked finishing.
In the 52nd minute, India earned two penalty corners in succession but on both occasion Shivendra failed to stop the ball.
Shivendra, however, made up for his mistake by giving India a 2-1 lead seven minutes later, deflecting home Sarvanjit Singh's cross. Poland equalised soon when Juszczak converted a penalty corner.
But it was not to be Poland's day as India converted two penalty corners in the last five minutes of the match through Raghunath and Sandeep to finish on top of the pool with 15 points.
New Delhi: Already assured of a place in the summit clash, favourites India had to sweat it out to keep their unbeaten run in the tournament defeating Poland 4-2 in the final round-robin match of the men's hockey Olympic qualifiers on Friday.