FIH Hockey Pro League: Indian men’s team goes down 4-6 against Australia in a thrilling encounter

The Indian men’s hockey team went down 4-6 against Australia in their third match of the FIH Hockey Pro League 2023/24 at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium on Thursday. In a game that swung both ways, Australia took the early double-goal lead, and then India replied with as many as four goals in the second quarter. But the visitors got the better of the home side as they scripted a thrilling comeback in the second half.

The Indian men’s hockey team went down 4-6 against Australia in their third match of the FIH Hockey Pro League 2023/24 at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium on Thursday. In a game that swung both ways, Australia took the early double-goal lead, and then India replied with as many as four goals in the second quarter. But the visitors got the better of the home side as they scripted a thrilling comeback in the second half.

Captain Harmanpreet Singh (12′, 20′) netted twice, while Sukhjeet Singh (18′) and Mandeep Singh (29′) scored a goal each for India. Meanwhile, for Australia, Blake Govers scored two goals in the 2nd minute, and Aran Zalewski (40′), Lachlan Sharp (52′), Jacob Anderson (55′) and Jack Welch (58′) scored a goal each in what was a goal-fest.

Australia rocketed to a double-goal lead inside the first two minutes of the match, courtesy of Govers’s quick-fire brace. The first goal came in through a penalty corner, while the second from a blistering counterattack, finding the back of the net with a fiery field goal.

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The visitors kept piling intense pressure on the hosts and earned as many as three penalty corners in quick succession, but the Indian defence managed to avert the danger.

The latter phase of the opening quarter saw an improved performance from India. They approached with a structured attack and made significant forays inside the Australian circle. A foul on Sumit by Ky Willot inside the circle gave India their first penalty corner, and Harmanpreet made no mistake in pulling a goal back for the hosts as he powered the ball into the net, making it 1-2 in the 12th minute.

The second quarter saw India turn the tables as they dominated the proceedings. Sukhjeet took the shot on target but was denied by the Aussie goalkeeper.

India then missed converting a penalty corner, but still managed to score on a quick long corner retake. Harmanpreet made a skilful run inside the circle, playing it to Sukhjeet who slotted the ball home in front of the goalpost, bringing things back on level terms in the 18th minute.

Two minutes later, India were 3-2 ahead as Harmanpreet converted yet another penalty corner. They again had a penalty corner, but the Aussie goalkeeper made the double save, denying Jugraj’s drag-flick and Araijeet’s tomahawk on the rebound.

Australia quickly replied and were awarded a penalty corner in the 24th minute, but the decision was overturned following a successful video referral from India.

The home side kept making forays on the quick counterattacks. Harmanpreet played a blazing pass from the midfield to Mandeep, who received the ball on the top of the circle and turned quickly to smash the ball into the net, giving India a 4-2 lead at the end of what was a breathtaking second quarter.

The third quarter saw Australia dominate the ball possession. They made relentless forays, forcing India to defend deep inside their circle. They were rewarded for their pressure as they pulled a goal back through Zalewski, who deflected Govers’s flick during a penalty corner routine in the 40th minute.

With less than a minute to go for the third quarter, Australia earned another penalty corner, but the local lad Amit Rohidas made a sublime save with his first rushing skills to deny the visitors from equalising. The start of the final quarter saw both teams push each other from one end to the other in search of a goal. India did make inroads in Australia’s circle but kept losing possession in the final third.

Meanwhile, Australia caught the Indian defence off guard as they sneaked into the Indian circle and managed to equalise through Sharp who slotted the ball home from the far post after receiving a cross from Govers from the left flank. Three minutes later, Jake Harvie orchestrated a fine run along the goalline and played it to Anderson who found the back of the net to put Australia 5-4 ahead.

With less than three minutes for the final hooter, India removed goalkeeper Sreejesh to put an extra outfield player. Australia took advantage of it as Welch fired the ball into the empty goal to Australia’s two-goal lead. The visitors then slowed down the proceedings in the closing stage of the match to bag a thrilling 6-4 win.

India will face Ireland in their fourth match on Friday.

(IANS)

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