In what turned out to be a thrilling encounter, defending champions Australia prevailed over India 4-3 in the first leg of their FIH Hockey Pro League clash at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Friday. Also Read - India Hockey Legend And World Cup Winner Michael Kindo Passes Away at 73
India captain Manpreet Singh blamed the defeat on his team’s failure to create enough chances in the first three quarters that allowed the tourists to take a commanding 4-1 lead. Also Read - Indian Men's Hockey Team Finish Decade With Highest-Ever Ranking
“I think we are quite disappointed because we didn’t start well, conceding three goals,” Manpreet said after the match. “In the fourth quarter we came back and actually played our game, and because of that we scored two goals. I think we didn’t create many chances in the first three quarters but in the last quarter we did, so we need to come back [strong] for tomorrow’s match.” Also Read - India Hockey Star Gurjant Singh Hopes to Prove His Mettle Before Tokyo Olympics
Dylan Wotherspoon put Australia in the lead in the sixth minute itself with a field goal before Tom Wickham (18th minute), Lachlan Sharp (41st minute) and Jacob Anderson (42nd minute) added goals of their own.
However, India did pull one goal back in the third quarter when Raj Kumar Pal converted a penalty corner in the 36th minute but it was Australia who remained in the lead at 4-1 ahead of the fourth and final quarter.
Needing to raise their game by several notches, the hosts produced a spirited performance in the final 15 minutes. Raj Kumar Pal added a stunning field goal to his earlier penalty corner and further reduced the deficit to two goals in the 47th minute.
Five minutes later, Rupinder Pal Singh converted a penalty corner to drag India to within a goal of drawing level. He had a glorious chance to level the scores with a last minute penalty corner, but his effort was wide of the mark.
Sharp was named Player of the Match but said he was disappointed with how Australia allowed India an opening in the final quarter. “It [the fourth quarter] was not what we wanted, but to have a good defence in the end and hold them out, it was a good win. We have a squad of 27 who can step up on their day and play their role. I think we showed that tonight. The Kalinga Stadium is always a great place to play, we love the support of the Indian crowd, so thank you for that,” he said.
The second match of the tie will be played on Saturday.