India handed first loss of Sultan Azlan Shah by Australia
Ipoh (Australia), May 2 (IANS): India’s hockey team was overpowered by reigning world champions Australia 1-3 despite starting strongly and suffered the first loss in three matches of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup here on Tuesday.
In the match pitting last edition’s finalists, India kept the Australian attackers at bay before taking the lead through Harmanpreet Singh, who drove from the right — a rare field goal for a defender cum set-piece specialist in the 26th minute. Australia’s equaliser came four minutes later when Eddie Ockenden dived near the right post to put the ball in as both the teams went into the half-time 1-1.
After the break, Australia continued their attacking game, earning as many as three penalty corners in the first four minutes. The third one saw Matthew Swann mistrapping but Tom Craig capitalised on it and banged one into the near post, stunning goalkeeper Akash Chikte. The goal further boosted the Australians’ confidence, and they controlled the midfield which forced India on to the backfoot. Jake Whetton came close to double Australia’s advantage as he fired from the top of the ‘D’, but the ball missed the mark by a whisker in the 48th minute.
Then came a moment of solo brilliant effort from Tom Wickham, who dodged past three Indian defenders from the right to arrive at the centre of the circle before employing an emphatic backhander to beat Chikte.
Despite the two-goal advantage, Australia didn’t relent and kept attacking. India put out their goalkeeper to put one more outfield player. They did get a couple of opportunities to counter-attack but none of these came close to reducing the goal difference, as Australia, the tournament’s record champions, delivered a clinical second-half performance. This was India’s first loss of the tournament, having earlier defeated England and New Zealand. They face Japan on Wednesday before meeting hosts Malaysia in their final round-robin match on Thursday.