Spirited India hold Aussies

Spirited India hold Aussies

India gave an ample demonstration of their intentions as they played out a spirited 1-1 draw with Australia in their opening encounter of the Hockey World League final here on Friday.

India, who have a poor record against Australia and have been at the receiving end of some serious pasting over the last decade, came out all guns blazing at the Kalinga Stadium. While the Aussies took time to find their feet, the Indians attacked relentlessly to catch the Kookaburras off-guard.

It seemed like India were giving Australia a taste of their own medicine with their high-octane start. They pressed with scorching pace and unlike the teams of the past, didn't hold on to the ball for long but released it instantly to players free. However, for all their eye-catching one-touch play and intention to fight fire with fire, India lacked composure in the finishing department that saw them squander two great chances in the opening three minutes.

Gurjant Singh missed from point blank in the first minute while Akashdeep Singh, receiving a brilliant long ball from Harmanpreet Singh, made a hash of a simple tap-in. The missed chances nevertheless, India kept pouring forward to keep the Australians in their own half. Such was India's domination in the opening quarter, they held 75 percent possession - a rarity whenever they've played Australia.

India came out charging in the second quarter too but wasteful finishing by Akashdeep with only the goalkeeper to beat meant Australia went unpunished for their sloppy work. The reward for all their efforts finally came in the 20th minute through some brilliant one-touch passing. Skipper Manpreet Singh, playing his 200th international game, passed it from the right to S V Sunil, who instantly released it to Mandeep Singh and the latter neatly slotted home to send the crowd into raptures.

But even before the celebrations could settle down, the Aussies hit back within a minute as Jeremy Hayward sent a rasping shot into the net from a penalty corner to silence the crowd. The goal rekindled the Aussie fire and they created another penalty corner within seconds but they fumbled.

Thereafter the match sort of evened out with both teams testing each other although the Aussies looked more threatening in the final third. But, just like the Indians in the opening quarter, the Aussies fluffed their lines in the third, missing two great opportunities from penalty corners.

Both teams showed some urgency at the start of the final quarter in search of that winning goal but failed to breach each other's citadel as the strikers appeared to run out of gas and the defence stood firm. As the match neared the end, chances eventually died down as both appeared happy to walk away with honours shared. India thrilled they managed to hold the mighty Aussies while the latter pleased with a point following a scratchy performance.

"We had nine shots on goal in the first half against the number two side in the world. We had two really good chances in the first quarter but missed. This performance gives us a good feeling for the next game. We are happy with the draw but not satisfied because we wanted to win,"India head coach Sjoerd Marijne said.

In the day's opening encounter, Germany produced a clinical performance to beat England 2-0. Mats Grambusch opened the scoring in the 19th minute before talismanic Christopher Ruhr added the second six minutes later.

Results: Pool B: Germany: 2 (Mats Grambusch 19th, Christopher Ruhr 25th) bt England: 0; India: 1 (Mandeep Singh 20th) drew with Australia: 1 (Jeremy Hayward 21st).

Saturday's fixtures: 12 noon: Argentina vs Belgium (Pool A); 2:00 pm: Netherlands vs Spain (Pool A); 5:30 pm: Germany vs Australia (Pool B); 7:30 pm: India vs England (Pool B).

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