India stun world champ Australia; to face Korea in play-off

India stun world champ Australia; to face Korea in play-off
Already out of title race, India played without pressure and at last came up with a complete performance that had Australia on the backfoot for most part of the match. The win gave also gave India’s new chief coach Paul van Ass his best moment of a short career with the Indian team. India scored a goal each in all the four quarters through VR Raghunath (1st minute), Nikkin (23rd, 32nd, 60th), while Australia’s goals came from the sticks of Daniel Beale (14th) and Matt Gohdes (53rd). By virtue of this win, India finished their league engagements with seven points from five games and will now face Korea in the third-fourth place classification match after the East Asians drew 3-3 with New Zealand on Sunday.

The Kookaburras struggled for ball possession throughout the match and their defence crumbled when put under pressure by the Indian forwards. Barring the two soft goals which they conceded, there was no blemish in India’s performance on Saturday.

India were by far the better side on display in the entire 60 minutes as they dominated the proceedings against all expectations. They were off to a great start, earning two penalty corners in succession with the very first move of the match.  Raghunath converted the second set piece with a booming flick to give the side an early lead. The Indian defence, however, broke down just a minute from the end of the first quarter as Australia equalized through Beale, who got plenty of space inside the Indian circle and made no mistake in pushing in Trent Mitton’s pass.

Four minutes into the second quarter, Satbir Singh hit one straight to the Australian goalie Clemons. Minutes later, India restored lead when Nikkin scored his first of the day after being set up by Satbir and SK Uthappa’s fine play. Just two minutes after the change of ends, India had another opportunity but when Raghunath’s scoop from the deep found Akashdeep Singh but the striker’s first time shot was blocked by Clemons. From the very next move, India made it 3-1 through Nikkin, who neatly deflected in a Manpreet Singh pass from the right. Nikkin sealed the match for India just at the stroke of the hooter scoring with a reverse hit from a counter-attack. By virtue of this win, India avenged their 1-2 loss to Australia at the FIH Champions Trophy in December last year.

The loss snapped Australia’s unbeaten run in the tournament and gave them a wake up call before Sunday’s final.

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