World Champions Australia pegged India down with a 3-1 victory and moved comfortably towards Saturday final of the 26th edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
The last time the two nations met was at the 14th FIH Champions Trophy in London last year. The Kookaburras capped a fine start in preparation towards the August Rio Olympics with a 3-1 win in penalty shootout over the Indians after a scoreless draw in regulation time.
However, the 2016 edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup has been a painful experience for World No 6 India against Australia. They lost 5-1 in the group stage and 4-0 in the final.
Nine-time champions Australia, and India who last won the Cup in 2010, got off to a rousing start today and it was the Kookaburras who set the match alight with a penalty corner in the first minute with nothing coming out of it.
However, in a sudden burst of counter attack by the Australians, India’s No 1 goalkeeper P. Sreejesh came off the line to stop Eddie Ockenden from taking a shot and in the process suffered a right knee injury. He was replaced Akash Chikte.
But it was India who grabbed the lead in the 26th minute through Harmanpreet Singh whose shot was deflected in by defender Andrew Philpott before a lurking Mandeep Singh could even have a go at it.
The World No 2 Australians equalised four minutes later when Jeremy Hayward makes a powerful shot that spills off the pads of Akash and into the way of Ockenden who had no trouble plugging the ball into goal. Tom Craig doubles the score in the 34th minute with a reverse stick shot past Akash.
India made great efforts making inroads for the equaliser towards the end of the fourth quarter but it was Australia who went ahead 3-1 thanks to a brilliant individual rate from Tom Wickham who manouvered his way past three amused Indian defenders and blasted the ball with a reverse stick shot past the hapless Akash.
The Indians tried everything to get back into the game with six minutes remaining on the clock but could not break down a fortified Australian defence for their first defeat in the tournament.
WHAT THE COACHES SAID
Colin Batch (Australia Head Coach)
We started off slow and regrouped in the second quarter and I think we had a good game overall against India. In this kind of heat it’s always difficult to give a 100 percent on the field and the same goes to India. Harmanpreet and Rupinder Pal are brilliant players and it is always difficult to read their game.
We made some changes after our matches against New Zealand and this makes a lot of difference today. The last two games have been good for us but we still need to improve in our penalty corners and we are getting there slowly.
Roelant Oltmans (India Head Coach)
It is too early to say how serious is Sreejesh injury. We need to go into the details later today He suffered a right knee injury. We slowed down after scoring the first goal but I don’t know why the third goal came.
The players were surprised as they thought there was an infringement. But there is no reason for that, they should have just played on.
Basically it was not the best part of our game and we will see how things go in our next matches. I don’t want to say much about the final as it is still early to talk about it.