Champions Trophy Hockey 2018: Australia defeat India in thrilling penalty shootout to defend title
Australia defended their title by defeating India in the finals of FIH Champions Trophy 2018 played at Breda, Netherlands on Sunday. It was an incredible final with both teams displaying brilliant skills, but the Kookaburras made all the difference in the shootout.
In the opening minutes of the first quarter, Australia dominated play but the Indian defence was up to it and kept the attackers at bay. The next few minutes, the Men in Blue were on top as they got multiple penalty corners, however, instead of direct shots they tried multiple variations and were unable to convert the chances into a goal. The score remained level 0-0 at the end of 1st quarter.
Australia earned their first penalty corner in the 2nd quarter. A blistering hit by Blake Govers -- which PR Sreejesh got a hand to but was unable to stop -- gave the defending Champions a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute. India played positive hockey post conceding, even holding possession, but could not use any opportunities and the match went into the halftime with a 1-0 lead to the Kookaburras.
The third quarter witnessed attacking hockey by both teams -- creating many field goal opportunities for the Bharat Army in particular. In the 37th minute, Mandeep Singh hit a brilliant shot but the goal post denied him and India a goal. Finally, the 2nd youngest player in the squad, Vivek Sagar, scored a brilliant goal in the 42nd minute to break the deadlock and level the scores at 1-1.
Two minutes later, Mandeep Singh hit a really good shot from within the circle but the Australian goalkeeper Tyle Lovell was up to it and his quick reflexes denied India the lead as he pulled off a double save.
In the fourth and final quarter, the Men in Blue had three golden chances to take the lead but luck played spoilsport. In the 57th minute, Manpreet Singh missed a golden chance right in front of goal. The match was on equal terms as both teams had 19 circle penetrations each and six shots on target. Like the 2016 finals, the match ended in a thrilling 1-1 draw.
Aran Zalewski took the first penalty shootout for Australia and went past PR Sreejesh to give the lead. Next up for Australia was Daniele Beale, who converted penalty into a goal to give a 2-0 lead.
Harmanpreet Singh's penalty, meanwhile, missed its mark. The third penalty for Australia was taken by Swann and was well saved by Indian goalkeeper P Sreejesh. Lalit missed the subsequent penalty for India, but they got a life-line when Craig missed his penalty. Manpreet Singh scored the only penalty for India, while Edwards scored the winning strike for Australia.
It was an amazing performance by the Indian hockey team who came close to lifting their maiden Champions Trophy title but today luck was not with them. They won the silver medal in the 2016 edition losing to Australia in penalty shootouts.
India performed brilliantly in the 2018 edition of Champions Trophy beating Pakistan 4-0, stunning Argentina 2-1, losing to Australia 2-3, holding Belgium 1-1 and also Netherlands 1-1 to progress into the finals.
This performance will help the Indian team in good stead for the upcoming Asian Games where the winner would qualify directly for the 2020 Olympics.