Ipoh [Malaysia]: A resilient India went down fighting 1-3 against defending champions Australia in a thrilling third round-robin league encounter at the 26th Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament 2017 here on Tuesday.
It was Eddie Ockenden (30′), Tom Craig (34′) and Tom Wickham (51′) who were responsible for Australia’s 3-1 win while India’s lone scorer was Harmanpreet Singh (26′).
Played in front of a vocal Malaysian crowd who rallied behind India, there was no doubt this top of the table clash between previous edition’s finalists was going to be played with pace and skill, and the teams didn’t disappoint.
It was Australia’s Tyler Lovell who had a busier first quarter in goal, his saves keeping Australia from dropping behind too early in the game. He padded away a fiercely-struck flick by dragger Rupinder Pal Singh in the ninth minute.
India had won another penalty corner earlier in the quarter but Harmanpreet Singh unfortunately couldn’t get his stick on the ball. A brilliant opportunity went amiss in the 11th minute when an instinctive Akashdeep Singh tried to get a reverse stick to deflect the ball into the post but Pardeep Mor’s pass was slightly wide.
Though Australia began their attack with a penalty corner in the very first minute of the match, P.R Sreejesh was exceptional to save Trent Mitton’s dragflick.
After ending the first quarter in stalemate, India made the first breakthrough when a nonchalant Harmanpreet Singh showcased his ability to double up as a forward when he dribbled past Aussie defenders into the circle to score a sensational field goal in the 26th minute.
India’s 1-0 lead, however, didn’t last long enough with Eddie Ockenden converting a goal from a rebound in the 30th minute to go into the half-time at 1-1.
The third quarter saw India’s Akash Chikte who had replaced an injured Sreejesh in the first quarter, make several saves but the Australians were continuously looking for opportunities to get ahead of India.
After a series of failed attempts at converting a penalty corner, Australia’s lead came in the 34th minute through Tom Craig who came up with an improvised shot on goal after being assisted by his skipper Matthew Swann. This was Craig’s fifth goal of the tournament after he got a hat-trick against Malaysia.
Having conceded two crucial goals, it was important India played tactically in the final 15 minutes. But the Australians kept the pressure on and it didn’t help when Tom Wickham was unstoppable in the circle as he converted a goal in the 51st minute to take Australia’s lead to 3-1 and eventually win the game to stay on top pf the table in the league stage.
India will now take on Japan in their next group clash of the tournament on Wednesday. (ANI)