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India go down in penalty shootout to concede hockey series

Photo: Hockey India Official Website

INDIA CONCEDED THE HOCKEY TEST SERIES to Australia despite winning the third and final match after going down in the series deciding penalty shootout at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Hockey Stadium in Raipur on Sunday.

The visitors won the penalty shootout 3-2 after India won the match 3-2. V.R. Raghunath (17th minute) and Rupinder Pal Singh (41st) converted a couple of penalty corners before Akashdeep Singh (60th) scored a field goal with seconds to go for the final hooter. Trent Mitton (36th, 53rd) scored a brace for Australia.

The Indian victory meant that the teams were tied at one win each in the three-match series. The first match had ended in a 2-2 draw on November 19 while the Australians won the second encounter 2-1 on Sunday. 

As per the rules for this test series, the series winner had to be decided by penalty shoot-out which was won 3-2 by the visitors. 

Daniel Beale, Matt Gohdes and Chris Ciriello converted their attempts for Australia. Birender Lakra was the only Indian to convert his attempt while Raghunath scored from a penalty stroke after Amir Khan was fouled by Australian goalkeeper Tristan Clemons.

Dharamvir Singh, who took India's fifth and final attempt, was also fouled by Clemons. Raghunath stepped up to take the resultant penalty stroke, but this time Clemons guessed correctly to deny the dragflicker and clinch the series for Australia.

Earlier, Australia were the more attacking team in the opening stages and earned a penalty corner right in the first minute. But the effort was fired wide by Ciriello. 

The hosts struggled to cope with the frequent Australian attacks and took time to find their feet. It was not until the 11th minute that the Indians had their first chance when S.V. Sunil managed to shake off his marker before connecting a cross from Akashdeep Singh which was inches wide of the far post.

The Australians had two scoring chances in the last minute of the first quarter including a penalty corner. But Sreejesh produced a couple of acrobatic saves to deny them.

The Indians were awarded their first penalty corner early in the second quarter and Raghunath beat the Australian defence with a powerful shot to bring the partisan crowd on to their feet.

Despite conceding the lead, the Australians continued with their attacking style. But some good defending by the Indians and another excellent save by Srejesh saw the hosts go into the half-time break with a 1-0 lead.

But the visitors could not be denied for long as Mitton snatched the ball from Birender Lakra just outside the penalty area and deceived Sreejesh with a nice body feint before slotting home.

The Indians however, soon earned their second penalty corner off a counter-attack and Rupinder beat the Australian goalkeeper with a powerful lofted dragflick.

Australia earned back to back penalty corners in the 52nd minute, but Raghunath came up with superb blocks on both occasions. The hosts could not rejoice for long however, as in the very next minute, Mitton capitalised on some sloppy defending to score his second goal.

The hosts found their third goal with just 10 seconds to go when Akashdeep latched onto a long pass from the midfield and came up with an excellent finish to send the match into the shootout.

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