Host Australia snatched a 5-4 win against them India In the five-a-side opener here, as many as three goals were scored in the last quarter here on Saturday.
Both teams lived up to their billing as they produced a thrilling game, with as many as nine goals scored in 60 minutes of entertaining hockey, leaving weekend spectators on the edge of their seats.
For India, veteran striker Akashdeep Singh (10th, 27th, 59th) scored a hat-trick of goals and Harmanpreet Singh (31st) also impressed with the PC attack. For the home team, Lachlan Sharp (5th), Nathan Ephraums (21st), Tom Craig (41st) and Blake Gophers (57th, 60+) scored to put their team ahead.
As expected, the game got off to a fast start, with the home team picking up the pace in the first quarter. The speed with which they attacked showed their intentions but India stayed apace. Although Australia struck first with a fine Sharpe goal scored by Tom Craig in the fifth minute, India held their ground to find the right moment to score. Just three minutes later, a fine tackle by Dilpreet Singh led to India’s counter-attack which made good use of it as Akashdeep scored the equaliser.
Australia’s second goal was also set up by Tom Craig who dominated the midfield, assisting Evraums in the 21st minute to put the India keeper past Krishan Pathak, who replaced Surgesh in the second quarter.
Six minutes later, Akashdeep Singh was again leading India’s attack as he scored another goal in the 27th minute followed by PC in the 31st minute which was miraculously converted by Harmanpreet Singh after a slight fumble by Rajkumar Pal who was placed as the PC attacking keeper. This goal from the India captain put his team 3-2 ahead for the first time in the match, but Australia bounced back in the third quarter with a goal by Tom Craig in the 41st minute.
The final quarter was played brilliantly as Australia came out in full gear. They pushed India to make mistakes, which resulted in a PC being awarded in the 57th minute. It was their seventh PC of the match and Blake Govers converted from a good variation snatching a 4-3 lead.
Although Akashdeep’s heroics led to India’s fourth, equalizing goals with just a minute left in the match, one would have thought the match would end in a draw but the Australian fighting spirit was once again ahead. After winning a computer with seconds left in the match, Blake scored his second goal, and his team’s fifth goal that put Australia 1–0 up in the five-match series.
“It was a disappointing end to what was probably a very good performance,” India coach Graham Reid expressed after the match.
“We let ourselves down at certain stages specifically in a couple of quarters but I think we came back really well only unfortunately we (Australia) got them back at the end. That’s something we have to get better at now.”
“The challenge now is to combine good performance. Consistency is one of the goals of this Tour, and that is our challenge tomorrow,” Reed emphasized.
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