The Indian men’s hockey team faced world leaders Australia in their final pool ‘A’ match in Antwerp, Belgium on Sunday. Hockey fans flocked in large numbers at the KHC Dragons stadium to witness this mouth-watering contest. Riding on three superb penalty corner goals from Chris Ciriello, Australia outplayed India by a margin of 6-2.
First half: Dominant Australia go 3-0 up
This fixture was a special one for Indian midfielder Gurbaj Singh who won his 200th international cap. Despite a 4-1 head to head record in favour of India in recent matches, Australia entered the match as favourites and the scoreline was evidence of their aura. The Kookaburras were on the attack from the beginning, as they pushed the Indian players back and forth. Jamie Dwyer, Chris Ciriello and Alan Zalewski were effective at their positions and created many chances. In the 8th minute, Dwyer sped past three Indian defenders to find an unmarked Aran Zalewski. He comfortably swept the ball through PR Sreejesh’s legs to give Australia a 1-0 lead.
Six minutes later, Jamie Dwyer made another brilliant run inside the attacking half. He got past Gurmail Singh inside the shooting circle and fired a hit on the reverse, into the top right corner of the goal. The goal rounded up the first quarter with Australia taking a vital 2-0 lead.
The Australians continued to attack in the second quarter and were relentless in doing so. They were awarded the first penalty corner of the match in the 26th minute and Christopher Ciriello waited at the top of the circle for the drag-flick. PR Sreejesh did well to block the Australian’s initial shot but the rebound went straight back to him and Cirello managed to get the ball past the keeper into the goal. Australia were 3-0 ahead at the half-hour mark. The men in blue were down on the count and it needed a special effort to make a comeback.
Second half: Chris Ciriello completes hat-trick, Lakra and Ramandeep score consolation goals for India
The third quarter was another goal-fest as four goals were scored in the space of just eleven minutes. Chris Ciriello started the proceedings with another well-executed drag flick off a penalty corner in the 33rd minute. The very next minute saw India win a penalty corner, but Jasjit Singh’s sweep was blocked by Andrew Charter. Birendra Lakra was alert enough to spot the rebound and whipped the ball on the reverse into the goal post. The Indian forwards did seem to apply pressure on the Australians in the third quarter but the midfielders and defenders were too loose on the ball as they lost possession quite easily.
Australia seemed unstoppable when it came to attacking as Jamie Dwyer and co. hardly ran out of fuel. The 42nd minute saw another blazing run from the Australian unit and this time it was Kieran Govers who landed the finishing blow to score Australia’s fifth goal. Chris Ciriello then completed his hat-trick in the 44th minute after converting another penalty corner to insert the final nail in the coffin. Ramandeep Singh then pulled back a consolation goal and the second for India in the 52nd minute with a timely deflection for Dharamvir Singh’s incoming cross. At full time, the score read 6-2 and India have a lot of homework to do ahead of the quarterfinals. They will play against Malaysia, who finished third in Pool ‘B’.
India 2 (Birendra Lakra 34′, Ramandeep Singh 52′) lost to Australia 6 (Aran Zalewski 8′, Jamie Dwyer 14′, Chris Ciriello 26′, 33′, 44′, Kieran Govers 42′)