India beats WA Thundersticks 2-0 in Australia tour opener

Goals from Birendra Lakra (23rd minute) and Harmanpreet Singh (50th) secured the win for the visitor in its opening match of the tour, where it will also play the Australian national team on May 15 and May 17.

India took the lead in the 23rd minute through a fine field goal by Birendra Lakra (right).   -  Biswaranjan Rout

India beat WA Thundersticks 2-0 to start its Australia hockey tour on a positive note at the Perth Hockey Stadium on Wednesday.

Goals from Birendra Lakra (23rd minute) and Harmanpreet Singh (50th) secured the win for the visitor in its opening match of the tour, where it will also play the Australian national team on May 15 and May 17.

Both the teams played fluently in the first quarter and created a few scoring opportunities.

Debutant Jaskaran Singh got the first real chance for India in the fifth minute but he failed to keep his shot on target.

Thundersticks did try to penetrate India’s defence but failed to get past Harmanpreet and Rupinder Pal Singh, who were rock solid at the back.

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Akashdeep Singh also had a shot at goal for India towards the end of the first quarter, but Thundersticks’ goalkeeper Ben Rennie made a fine save to deny the visitor.

India started dominating proceedings in the second quarter with captain Manpreet Singh and Mandeep Singh both denied by rival goalkeeper Rennie.

But patience finally paid dividends as India took the lead in the 23rd minute through a fine field goal by Lakra.

After conceding, Thundersticks tried to make a comeback but India’s defence again proved to be too strong for the home side.

India’s efforts in the closing stages of the second quarter saw it win a penalty corner, but Rennie made a diving save to deny the visitor and keep the scoresheet at 1-0 at half-time.

The third quarter was a hard-fought one as both India and Thundersticks tried to take the upperhand.

In the 40th minute, Birendra Lakra was in the thick of action again as he found Sumit on the edge of the circle, who showed a burst of pace and made a circle entry towards the right side, but could not produce a final pass.

Mandeep also found himself in a similar position two minutes later, but Thundersticks defended well to thwart the danger.

The last quarter started well for India as it pushed for a second goal, which finally came through a penalty corner conversion by Harmanpreet in the 50th minute.

Just three minutes from the final hooter, the home side was awarded back-to-back penalty corners but India defended stoutly to keep its lead intact.

India will play its next match against Australia ‘A’ on May 10.