Hockey: India starts tour of Australia on a winning note
Indian men’s hockey team, preparing for the FIH Men”s Series Finals to be played at Bhubaneshwar from June 5 started its tour of Australia with a 2-0 win over Western Australia Thundersticks at Perth on Wednesday. The goal scorers for India were defenders Birendra Lakara and Harmanpreet Singh. It was a game of fluent hockey as both the teams tried to create openings in the first quarter. First, it was India’s Jaskaran Singh who took a shot at goal in the 5th minute, but could not meet the target.
The home team also tried its best to penetrate India’s defence, but was kept out by a resilient defending by Harmanpreet Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh. India’s experienced forward Akashdeep Singh also had a shot at goal towards the end of the first quarter, but WA Thundersticks’ goalkeeper Ben Rennie made a fine save. India started dominating proceedings in the second quarter as captain Manpreet Singh and Mandeep Singh took turns at the home team’s goal that saw good saves by the goalkeeper. India’s dominance in possession and patient build-up play saw it create another opportunity in the 23rd minute.
It saw defender Birendra Lakra score a field goal through a delightful finish to give his team a 1-0 lead. After conceding, WA Thundersticks tried to make a comeback in the match but India’s defence again proved too strong. 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 visitors and keep the score at 1-0 at half-time. A well matched third quarter between the two sides kept the defenders of both the teams on their toes. First, it was WA Thundersticks who looked threatening through a circle entry, but India looked to catch the home side out on the counter led by Gursahibjit Singh.
The 40th minute saw Birendra Lakra 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 Singh also found himself in a similar position two minutes later, but Thundersticks defended well to see out the third quarter. The last quarter started well for the Indian team as it pushed for a second goal, which finally came through a penalty corner in the 50th minute. Harmanpreet Singh took a well-crafted drag-flick to put the ball into the back of the net and extend his team’s lead to two goals with 10 minutes remaining.
The away side looked more threatening in the next few minutes but Thundersticks also tried to counter. In the 57th minute, the home side was awarded back-to-back penalty corners.Indian defence,however, made sure that it ends the day with a 2-0 win to start its tour on a high. It will play its next match against Australia ‘A’ on May 10.