Despite some earnest fourth quarter struggle, the Indian team failed to find their way back into the contest as the imposing Aussies defeated them 4-2 in a predominantly lopsided encounter at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Taking on the Kookaburras in today’s top-of-the-table clash, India were looking to amend their nightmarish recent record against the World No. 1 side who handed them massive defeats of 5-1 and 4-0 in 2016 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup held at Ipoh, Malaysia in April. Australia had their foot in Friday’s finale already whereas the Men in Blue still had to ensure theirs with a positive show at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, today.
Vokkaliga Raghunath had led the team out onto the field before their opponents pushed back from the centre to start proceedings. Keeper Sreejesh was pulled into action right away as he blocked Hayward’s shot from their first penalty corner with a diving save. Although India did claim some share of possession during the first quarter, it remained goalless for both sides.
Australia began to dominate
As play commenced in the second quarter, the Australians broke into a rhythm that saw them produce attack after attack on the Indian goal. While Sreejesh and Raghunath stayed busy making goal-line clearances, they couldn’t keep the inevitable at bay for long.
Trent Mitton’s low drag-flick soared into the roof of the net after hitting Sreejesh’s foot in the 21st minute. Two minutes later, skipper Aran Zalewski pounced on Sreejesh’s faulty stop and tucked the ball into the goal thereby doubling their lead. By the time we reached the interval, both teams had had one member suspended for two minutes but it was the Aussies riding comfortably on a two-goal cushion over the Indians whose confidence was clearly shaken.
The Kookaburras led 2-0 at half-time
Back to back penalty corners in the 33rd minute were miraculously kept out by Sreejesh, the first one ricocheting off the goalpost following a slight touch of the custodian’s stick. In the 35th minute, Flynn Oglivie got the better of Kothajit from the right wing and slotted home to extend Australia’s lead to three. Incidentally, India was yet to find their first penalty corner and were staring at another possible humiliation at the hands of the World No. 1 side as we moved towards the final quarter.
India pulled one back in the 45th minute
It was veteran Raghunath’s 45th-minute strike that reduced the deficit to two but even before the referee could blow the whistle to signal the end of the 3rd quarter, Tristan White fetched Australia’s fourth and restored their three-goal advantage.
Showing up as a livelier unit in the final quarter, the Indian team displayed some much-needed attacking prowess that soon culminated in Mandeep Singh scoring his third goal of this tournament from Akashdeep’s well-worked pass in the 49th minute.
Tim Deavin’s yellow card in the 56th minute left Australia with 10 men for the remainder of the match. Desperate to recover, the Indians darted forward in numbers as they tried to narrow the gap in the dying minutes of the game. However, that was not to happen and it stayed 4-2 to finish off India’s second loss at the 2016 FIH Champions Trophy as the hooter went off at the one-hour mark.Published 16 Jun 2016, 22:23 IST