Final day of action from the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium in Rourkela produced a highly competitive clash between India and Australia as the two teams played out a 2-2 draw in regulation time to take one point apiece. India then edged Australia in the sudden deaths of the shoot-outs by a 4-3 margin to claim the bonus point and take 11 out of the 12 points available at home. India also extended their lead at the top of the Pro League table, moving up to 19 points from 8 games.
India vs Australia 2-2 (SO: 4-3)
India won an early penalty corner in the game as a long aerial ball by Harmanpreet nearly found Abhishek but his space was encroached upon by a backpedalling Collins and India capitalised by opening the scoring. On target for India was Vivek Sagar, playing his 100th game as the first flick by Harmanpreet was well run down, but Vivek collected the ball, brought it into the circle and unleashed a powerful tomahawk shot perfectly into the bottom right corner of the goal. India kept peppering the Australian goal with attacks and nearly doubled their lead through Hardik, as a cross by Sukhjeet evaded Indian and Australian sticks in front of the goal to reach Hardik on the far post, but his reverse flick was off target.
Australia won their first penalty corner of the game in the 20th minute as Jarmanpreet Singh won possession inside the Indian circle but his pass attempt towards Sumit went straight out of the backline. The resulting penalty corner was well saved by Sreejesh who got his boot out to his left and made a save. Nathan Ephraums came close to levelling the score midway through the second quarter as he rounded Sreejesh and took a shot from a narrow angle, but his shot hit the post and went out of play.
Australian ascendancy continued to start the second half and they won a penalty corner in the second minute of the restart. Anand Gupte whipped a powerful drag flick from the corner but it went just wide to the left. Australia were back level in the 37th minute as Pawan’s tackle across Ephraums did not make contact with the ball but brought the Australian forward down, winning them a penalty stroke, which was dispatched with ease by Ephraums.
India went into the lead early in the final quarter as a spectacular spin and cross by Sukhjeet in the Australian circle was put into the goal by Ockenden as he tried to step in front of Karthi. It was a double blow for the visitors as Ockenden referred the goal for a push in the build-up but there was no evidence of the same and Australia lost their referral. Australia pulled level midway through the final quarter as a fantastic routine from a penalty corner saw Ephraums deflect a low shot by Howard that wrong-footed Sreejesh and crashed into the backboard.
Neither team could find a winner in a nervy final quarter with most of the game played in the midfield. The game headed into a shoot-out, with both teams looking for the bonus point after sealing a point each from the draw in regulation time.
Through the first five attempts the teams stayed level on 3-3. With the game heading into sudden death, Harmanpreet scored his second attempt in the shoot-outs giving India the lead, and Sreejesh made his 3rd save of the shoot-outs against Jack Welch to give India the win in the shoot-outs and the bonus point.
Harmanpreet Singh was awarded player of the match and said: “Great to play in front of this Rourkela crowd and keep up our win streak through the mini-tournament. Very proud of the way the team has played together and we will continue to improve.”
FIH Pro League – 15 March 2023
Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium, Rourkela (IND)
Result: Men’s Match 30
India 2-2 Australia (SO: 4-3)
Player of the Game: Harmanpreet Singh (IND)
Umpires: Rawi Anbananthan (MAS), Paul Walker (ENG), David Tomlinson (NZL-video)