London: The Indian men’s hockey team have qualified for their maiden Champions Trophy final despite suffering a 2-4 defeat in their final pool match of the tournament against Australia on Thursday.
India made it to the summit showdown after Belgium settled with a 3-3 draw against Great Britain in their group clash.
Australia, predictably started off the final pool match on the front foot, and held possession for longer period of time.
Despite, the sustained pressure though, the first chance of the game, fell to India. A long cross into the circle from Surender on the right was met by Jeremy Hayward, who under pressure from Mandeep, deflected it goal wards. Australia’s Tyler Lovell was alert to the danger though, saving it sharply. Australia created their first chance of the game two minutes later off a penalty corner, but Sreejesh was equal to the task saving low to his left. The teams went into the first break goal less.
In the second quarter, Australia came out much harder, creating several more chances in a busy first minute of play. India were under pressure in the first five minutes, and defended desperately. In the 20th minute though, Mitton finally converted a penalty corner to give Australia the lead. Three minutes later, Aran Zelewski doubled the lead, as the teams went into the half time with Australia leading 2-0.
Australia came out without any changes in the second half and India, under pressure and down on the score sheet were forced to play up the field to look for goals. They capitalized on the attacking formation to score a third on the counter via Flynn Ogilvie.
India finally had their first penalty corner of the game in the final minute of the quarter, and Raghunath made no mistake at the first time of asking. His flick found the bottom left corner strong and hard, to reduce Australia’s lead to two. Almost from the restart though, Australia restored their three-goal lead via Tristan White as then went into the final break.
Down but not beat, India came out strong and looked a team which wanted to complete a comeback in the final quarter. In the 49th minute, they reduced the margin to two. A smart pass from Manpreet at the top of Australia’s circle found Talwinder, who smashed a reverse hit goal wards.
Mandeep Singh, one of the top scorers of the tournament, ran away from his marker and met it perfectly, directing it into goal. That was to prove the last breach by either of the teams as the game ended 4-2 in favour of the Australians.
Australia topped the league standings with 13 points from five matches while India finished on seven points. The two sides will now play in the Gold medal match in the Champions Trophy. (ANI)