Ipoh (Malaysia): The World No.1 Australia put India out of contention for a place in the Final as they beat the Sardar Singh-led squad 4-2 in their third round-robin match here at the 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2018 on Tuesday. Late goals by Ramandeep Singh (52', 53') were simply not enough to defeat table toppers Australia. It was goals by Mark Knowles (28'), Aran Zalewski (35'), Daniel Beale (38') and Blake Govers (40') that ensured Australia remain unbeaten.
It was a must-win match for India and their intent to win was evident right from the start as they attacked the Australian circle constantly. With better ball possession in the first quarter, India created three potential chances to score but could not materialize. A golden opportunity was lost when a swift assist from Ramandeep Singh to Shilanand Lakra could not make it past Australian goalkeeper Andrew Charter in the 8th minute. Though the rebound was taken by Sumit, his shot on goal went wide thus missing out on an opportunity for an early 1-0 lead.
Though the team’s defense remained resolute in the first quarter as they kept the World Champions from making forays into the Indian circle, an infringement in the 28th minute saw the Indian team concede a penalty stroke. Australian skipper Mark Knowles was accurate in his attempt as he sent the ball past Krishan Pathak like a bolt, handing Australia a 1-0 lead. With seconds before the second hooter, India won the first PC of the match but the opportunity went begging with young dragflicker Varun Kumar’s shot rebounding off the cross bar ending the first half with scoreline favoring Australia.
The Australian forwards too didn’t seem like they were having a great outing in the initial minutes having missed a sure-shot opportunity to score earlier in the second quarter with Tom Craig not making a strong connection for deflection. But they made no such mistake in the third quarter. A superb pass by him in the baseline was effortlessly picked up by Aran Zalewski. His diving effort ensured the ball went past Suraj Karkera fetching the Australians a 2-0 lead in the 35th minute. Australians built on their lead and dominated the proceedings, keeping the ball for longer stints finding space in the Indian circle. They even won a PC in this pursuit but an ambitious variation could not be converted. A 3-0 lead eventually came by when Daniel Beale scored a splendid field goal in the 38th minute. Blake Govers later converted a PC as he brilliantly picked up a rebound that came off Suraj Karkera’s pads when he did well to save the dragflick but Govers’ shot found the space between Karkera's legs to the net, giving Australia 4-0 lead in the 40th minute.
The final quarter saw India vie for a great comeback with Ramandeep Singh scoring two back-to-back goals in the 52nd and 53rd minutes. Though the late surge boosted the team's attack, as they won a PC in the dying minutes of the match, a miss trapping dented their chance of a third goal, ending their campaign to reach the final, with a second defeat of the tournament.
On March 7, India will take on hosts Malaysia in their fourth match at 18.05 hours IST.