After two successive wins against Pakistan (4-0) and Argentina (2-1), Indian Men's Hockey Team went down 2-3 to World No.1 Australia in a hard-fought third round robin match here at the Rabobank Men’s Hockey Champions Trophy Breda 2018. Varun Kumar (10’) and Harmanpreet Singh (58’) scored for India while Lachlan Sharp (6’), Tom Craig (15’) and Trent Mitton (33’) score in Australia’s win.
With a place in the Final at stake, the match began with an action-packed first quarter with both teams keeping each other on the edge. It was Australia who opened the score board with a splendid goal by young forward Lachlan Sharp in the 6th minute. The Indian defence was hoodwinked when Jake Whetton was quick to assist Eddie Ockenden whose cross was well-picked up by Sharp to deflect past Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh.
India was quick to respond with an improvised attack that fetched them a PC, but a miss-trap off Sardar Singh’s injection saw the effort being missed. India won another PC through Lalit Upadhyay but again the ball bounced off before being trapped but the possession remained with India. It was SV Sunil’s brilliant cross to an unmarked Varun Kumar that helped India equalise in the 10th minute. Varun made no mistake in picking it up well and flicking it past Australian goalkeeper Tyler Lovell. Australia however ended the quarter one goal up as Tom Craig converted a PC. It was messy defensive work by India, though Sreejesh saved the first two attempts the ball was free before Australia drove it in.
Australia ahead by 2-1, India showed positive intent as they won a PC two minutes into the second quarter. However, the chance was not capitalised. India won yet another PC, their 4th in the following minute but Harmanpreet Singh drove the flick straight into Australia’s first rusher. The following minutes saw both teams trade PCs, but Sreejesh kept his team in the game with brilliant saves to defend the PCs and kept Australia from stretching the lead.
With SV Sunil and Manpreet Singh being sent away with a green and a yellow card respectively, Australia took advantage of fewer India players on the pitch as they beat the defence to score their third goal of the match through Trent Mitton off a Tom Craig assist. Australia dominated the proceedings as they won their 5th PC of the match putting India’s defence under further stress. It seemed as though the compactness the Indian team showed against Argentina was missing. Sreejesh was up to the task again when he made an effective save off Australia’s 6th PC attempt but India’s overall performance in the third quarter was not up to par with Australia.
Going into the final quarter, a goal continued to elude India. Two excellent shots on goal by Sardar Singh followed by Vivek Sagar Prasad in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter was well-saved by a very alert Australian goalkeeper. At this point, stats showed Australia’s dominance as they had made 20 circle entries with 17 shots on goal while India had made 18 with 10 shots on goal. In terms of PCs, Australia won 7 while India had 5 PCs. Sreejesh continued to be the cynosure in India’s defence as he saved Australia’s 7th PC attempt.
India made a strong comeback with just two minutes left for the final hooter when they won back-to-back PCs. Harmanpreet converted India’s 8th attempt at PC narrowing the lead to 2-3. Though India won another chance at scoring from the PC, Harmanpreet’s flick was well defended as Australia marched to their second win in the tournament and pushed India to No.3 in the Pool Standing.
On 28 June 2018, India will face World No.3 Belgium at 20.30 hours IST.
Matches will be shown live on Star Sports 1, Star Sports HD 1, DD Sports & Hotstar.