India men's hockey team, after conceding three goals in the first half, managed to keep a respectable margin against Australia in their third match of the Commonwealth Games at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre on Tuesday.
Australia made a flying start and took a 3-0 lead inside 30 minutes, thanks to some sloppy work from the Indian defenders. India, however, managed to reduce the deficit, with the reigning champions going into the halftime 3-1 up.
India put in a gritty performance in the second half to pull one goal back, but it was not enough as the Kookaburras scored once more to script a 4-2 win over India and book a semifinal place in this multisport event.
In the much-anticipated Group A match, Australia set the tempo right from the start, creating early chances with their efforts bearing fruit when Chris Ciriello converted a penalty corner in the 15th minute. Minutes later, Simon Orchard doubled the Kookaburra's lead through a field goal.
Ramandeep Singh got an opportunity in the 23rd minute to reduce the margin, but the chance went begging as he failed to beat Aussie goalkeeper Andrew Charter. On the other hand, Australia were much more clinical in front of goal.
Australia scored their third goal in the 27th minute when Rupinder Pal Singh's sloppy work inside the circle allowed Jacob Whetton to score. India, instead of bowing down under the pressure, pulled one goal back when Rupinder converted a penalty corner at the stroke of halftime.
India did well not to concede in the opening minutes of the second half, when they lost Sardar Singh, after the skipper was shown a green card. They continued to press and were soon rewarded when Ramandeep made it 2-3 in the 49th minute.
A minute later, though, Australia sealed the encounter by converting a penalty stroke through Ciriello, who, in the process, also bagged a brace. Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, again, had a good game as he managed to keep the Australians at bay in the second half apart from the penalty stroke.
"It was a very tough encounter today. I said to the players before the game that during the World Cup (where Australia won 4-0), in the second half it was a 0-0 draw," Australia co-coach Graham Reid said.
"We had a really good first half but in our second half India came out with fight and spirit, they pressed us, they put pressure on us. So, we knew it was going to be a very tough encounter and it was.
"We talk about starving teams of oxygen and if you give India any oxygen then they will hurt you and today they proved that a couple of times where we just laxed off, we didn't quite get our structure right at the back and they hurt us."
This is India's first defeat, after they beat Wales (3-1) in the opener and Scotland (6-2) in the second match. India will next lock horns with South Africa in their last group encounter and a draw will be enough for them to book a last-four berth.