Hosts Australia snatched a 5-4 win against India in the opening match of the five-game fixture here with as many as three goals being scored in the last quarter here on Saturday.
Both teams lived up to the billing as they produced an electrifying match, with as many as nine goals being scored in 60 minutes of entertaining hockey, leaving the weekend spectators on the edge of their seats.
For India, experienced forward Akashdeep Singh (10th, 27th, 59th) scored a hat-trick of goals and Harmanpreet Singh (31st) was too impressed with his PC attack. For the home team, Lachlan Sharp (5th), Nathan Ephraums (21st), Tom Craig (41st), and Blake Govers (57th, 60+) scored to put their team ahead.
As expected, the match began on a rollicking note, with the home team raising the tempo in the very first quarter. The speed with which they attacked, showed their intent but India stayed toe-to-toe. Even though Australia picked up the first strike with Sharp scoring a scintillating goal set up by Tom Craig in the fifth minute, India stayed composed to find the right moment to score. Only three minutes later, a good tackle by Dilpreet Singh led to India’s counter-attack which was capitalized well with Akashdeep scoring an equalizer.
Australia’s second goal too was set up by Tom Craig who dominated the midfield, assisting Ephraums in the 21st minute to put one past India goalkeeper Krishan Pathak who replaced Sreejesh in the second quarter.
Six minutes later, it was Akashdeep Singh leading India’s attack again as he scored another equalizer in the 27th minute followed by a PC in the 31st minute which was miraculously converted by Harmanpreet Singh after a slight fumble by Rajkumar Pal who was positioned as the stopper in the PC attack. This goal by India’s captain put his team ahead by 3-2 for the first time in the game, however, Australia bounced back in the third quarter with a goal by Tom Craig in the 41st minute.
The last quarter was brilliantly played with Australia coming out in top gear. They pushed India to make errors, leading to a PC being awarded in the 57th minute. This was their 7th PC of the match and Blake Govers converted from a fine variation snatching a 4-3 lead.
Akashdeep’s heroics though led to India’s fourth goal, leveling the scores with just a minute left for the final hooter, one would think the match would end in a draw but Australia’s fighting spirit was in the fore yet again. Winning a PC with seconds left for the final hooter, Blake scored his second goal and his team’s fifth which put Australia ahead by 1-0 in the five-match series.
“It was a disappointing finish to what was probably a pretty good performance,” expressed India’s Chief Coach Graham Reid after the match.
“We let ourselves down at certain stages specifically in two quarters but I think we came back well only to, unfortunately, hand it back to them (Australia) at the end. That’s something we have to get better at now,” he stated.
“The challenge now is to put a good performance together. One of the objectives of this tour is consistency, and that’s the challenge for us tomorrow,” asserted Reid.