Hockey Pro League, India vs Australia: India goes down fighting to defending champion

India came back from 1-4 down to threaten a penalty shootout against Pro League champion Australia but lost 3-4 in the first leg on Friday at the Kalinga Stadium.

Australia dominated the first three quarters but were pegged back by the Indians in the final quarter.   -  biswaranjan rout

Indian men's hockey team scored two goals in the final quarter after being 1-4 down, but lost 3-4 to Australia in the first match of the FIH Pro League tie at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.

Australia dominated the first three quarters and was comfortably ahead after goals from Dylan Wotherspoon (6'), Tom Wickham (18'), Lachlan Sharp (41') and Jacob Anderson (42'). Raj Kumar Pal's pulled one back for the host in the 36th minute and breathed life into the game with a second goal in the 41st minute.

Rupinder Pal Singh scored from a penalty corner in the 52nd minute as the Kookaburras endured several nervous moments in the final minutes to see out the game.

India will face Australia in the second leg of the tie on Saturday, beginning at 7 pm (IST).

India conceded an early goal in the 6th minute in the first match of the FIH Pro League against Australia on Friday. A stray pass from Rupinder Pal Singh from behind was latched on to by Aussie skipper Aran Zalewski who got the ball to Lachlan Sharp who crossed it to Dylan Wotherspoon who deflected it into the back of the net.

Australia made it 2-0 in the 18th minute off a devastating counter attack initiated by Lachlan Sharp. The full back ran along the left flank and sliced open the Indian defence with a pass to Eddie Ockenden who moved it to Tom Wickham who poked the ball past P.R. Sreejesh.

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The host was unable to shake off its sluggishness in the second half as Australia quickly turned around for another dangerous counterattack which India scrambled to clear. India won a penalty corner in the 35th minute but Rupinder Pal hit it straight at first runner Jake Harvey.

India won two more penalty corners and in the 36th minute Raj Kumar Pal found the back of the net after pouncing on a save from goalkeeper Tyler Lovell. Lachlan Sharp (41') and Jacob Anderson (42') scored two in two minutes as India was left chasing shadows.

Raj Kumar Pal reduced the arrears in the first seconds of the fourth quarter as he unleashed a thunderbolt from the edge of the circle to beat Lovell.  India pressed on the accelerator as it harried the Australian defence with quick passes in the final fourth often leading to a stray pass from the visitor.

On one such instance in the 52nd minute when India won the penalty corner which Rupinder Pal thumped into the bottom corner to make it 4-3. India pulled out Sreejesh for an outfield player in the final two minutes looking for an equaliser and won a penalty corner in the 60th minute. However, Rupinder Pal blazed his dragflick wide as Australia saw out the final minute to win the match.

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