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India take lead then lose grip

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Hero Hockey World League Final
Hero Hockey World League Final

Hosts take rare two-goal lead over Australia, but go down 7-2 in the end.

Never in recent memory has the Indian hockey team led by two goals against Australia.
Wednesday’s quarterfinal game against the world champions was one such occasion at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium. But the celebrations lasted only till the 29th minute.

In the end, Indian scoreline remained the same but Australia pumped in seven goals to set up their semifinal clash with Holland on Friday.

Buoyed by a 3-3 draw against Germany in the last league game, the hosts started off in style by creating several opportunities from the word go. Be it SK Uthappa and Mandeep Singh who came close to opening India’s account within seconds of the start whistle or Birendra Lakra’s solo dash a minute later, India didn’t give Aussies a chance to settle down.

And, India didn’t have to wait long as Lakra opened the scoring in the sixth minute with his second solo dash towards the Australian goal. Though the last touch before ball entered the Aussie goal was that of their own player, Lakra was credited with the goal.

Before the Australians could actually try and regroup after this unexpected opening show, Yuvraj Walmiki doubled the scoreline in the 11th minute. The entire 5,000-plus crowd were on their feet at this moment, a witness to history in making.

India kept dominating for next few minutes but by this time the Australians managed to find their feet and rhythm. It was Australians’ second penalty corner that turned the tide in their favour in the 24th minute when Nicholas Budgeon’s absolute grounder gave no chance to Indian goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh to reduce the margin by one goal.

Five minutes later, Liam De Young silenced the spectators by displaying his brilliant trapping right in front of the Indian goal, bringing parity in teams’ scoreline. India could not sustain the marauding Aussie attack thereafter and finally surrendered the lead just 32 seconds before the break.

A 3-2 scoreline at half-time still looked manageable provided the hosts could came back with the same energy and zeal to fight it out in the second half. Sadly, it was not the case as Australia took the game away within the first 10 minutes of the second half by scoring twice, in the 41st and 45th minutes.

Russell Ford made it 6-2 in the 47th minute. Though India got plenty of opportunities in between to reduce the margin, it was their poor finishing in front of the goal mouth that made all the difference. Australia finally completed the rout in the 65th minute when Jacob Whetton scored another field goal.

Stopwatch: India 2 (B Lakra 6, Y Walmiki 11) lost to Australia 7 (N Budgeon 24, J Wilson 29, G Turner 35, R Ford 41, 47 S Orchard 45, J Whetton); England 1 (T Carson 47) bt Belgium 0; Germany 1 (O Korn 38) lost to The Netherlands 2 (M Weerden 1, S Ass 6); Argentina 1 (M Paredes 59) drew with New Zealand 1 (K Russell 8) (New Zealand beat Argentina 4-3 on penalties)

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