Breda (the Netherlands): India put up a valiant fight before defending champions Australia pipped them 3-2 in an absorbing encounter in the six-nation Champions Trophy hockey tournament, here Wednesday.
The reigning World Champions produced their best show of the tournament, scoring through Lachlan Sharp (sixth minute), Tom Craig (15th) and Trent Mitton (33rd) to secure full points.
The Indians, however fought till the end, scoring through Varun Kumar (10th) and Harmanpreet Singh (58th) to produce a nail-biting finish.
The defeat meant that India slumped to third spot in the standings with six points from three games while Australia climbed to the top with seven points from identical number of matches. Netherlands are second in the table with six points.
The match witnessed plenty of scoring chances earned by both the sides in the form of penalty corners. While Australia secured seven penalty corners, India could make use of just one of its nine set pieces.
Australia got off the blocks quickly and took the lead through Sharpa, who tapped home an Eddie Ockenden’s feed from close quarter.
The Indians got two penalty corners in quick time but on both occasion Birendra Lakra failed to stop Sardar Singh’s push. However, Varun levelled the scores for India soon when he slammed home SV Sunil’s feed from the right flank.
Mandeep Singh’s shot from top of the circle was then saved by Australia goalkeeper Tyler Lovell before Indian custodian PR Sreejesh produced a fine save to deny Jeremy Hayward from Australia’s first penalty corner.
Seconds away from the end of the first quarter, a defensive lapse allowed Craig to give Australia the lead.
In the second quarter, the Australians and Indians, both had their chances, but failed to hit the mark.
The Kookaburras came out stronger after the break and increased their lead to 3-1, when Mitton scored from top of the circle with a fierce hit.
Trailing by two goals, India exerted pressure on the Australian defence and in the process secured three penalty corners in succession, the last of which was converted by Harmanpreet, two minutes from the hooter.