Pro League: Kookaburra’s nine-goal game thriller against India Sport-rated
A fearless team of Kookaburras who never give up are down to an Indian-inspired Harmanpreet Singh 5-4 in a vibrant FIH Pro League encounter at Rourkela’s Birsa Munda Stadium.
After Josh Beltz put the Kookaburras ahead early, the hosts responded in emphatic fashion to lead 4-1 at half time before the Aussies mounted a rousing comeback.
However, a Harmanpreet hat-trick and desperate Indian defending late on prevented the Kookaburras from taking any points from the lively contest.
Among the positives for the Kookaburras was Ben Staines’ first international goal in just his second game.
With India entering the match after a day’s rest, while the Kookaburras were falling back 24 hours after their narrow loss to Germany, the hosts sent an early warning shot through Gurjant Singh.
However, it was the Kookaburras who took the lead with their first foray forward in the 3rd minute.
Tasmanians Jack Welch and Beltz combined superbly down the left, the latter driving a ball towards Craig Marais at the far post which caused confusion between Indian goalkeeper Sreejesh and one of his defenders and the ball ended up over the goal line.
Aran Zalewski did well to block a goal-bound Harmanpreet drag flick as India enjoyed a series of penalty corners, however the Kookaburras were determined on defence.
The Kookaburras were playing with great energy and Staines almost finished with a slick move, only to have his shot blocked by an oncoming Sreejesh.
Harmanpreet then turned the game around when he converted two drag flicks in as many minutes to put India in front in the fourth period.
Eddie Ockenden was shown a yellow card in the play that led to Harmanpreet’s second goal and India made the most of the record holder’s absence from the Australian games to go 3-1 up on 18 minutes.
Karthi Selvam then fired an unstoppable shot into the top corner to further widen the margin. Despite being down just one shot in the first half, the Kookaburras went into halftime trailing by three goals.
Jacob Anderson chipped Pawan’s gloves with a shot looking for a quick response before Ky Willott returned the goal after some fine play from Tim Howard and James Collins.
Anand Gupte came close to cutting the lead to one, his well taken drag move being well saved by Pawan in the Indian goal.
Staines then made it 4-3, capitalizing on a rebound from a penalty corner to hit a sweetly timed shot that struck the backboard with 8 minutes remaining.
Another Harmanpreet drag flick on target brought the margin back to two with five minutes remaining before defender Howard set up a thrilling finish as he made it 5-4 with just his second international goal in 109 appearances.
Goalie Ben Rennie left with three and a half minutes left as the Kookaburras looked to take advantage of an additional outfield player.
Most of the last two minutes were played in the Kookaburras’ 25m attacking box, but they could not find a late equalizer.
“I think it was a very good game played in very good spirits, so it’s a shame that so many people got booked,” Zalewski said.
“Five goals against is disappointing and unfortunately we didn’t get the right result today.”
The Kookaburras now have a rest day before a second game against Germany on March 14.
The FIH Pro League is broadcast in Australia on FOX Sports, available on Foxtel and Kayo.
India 5 (Harmanpreet 14’/15’/55′, Jugraj 18′, Karthi Selvam 26′)
Kookaburras 4 (J. Beltz 3′, Willott 43′, Staines 52′, Howard 56′)
@ Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium, Rourkela
Kookaburras: 4 Jake Harvie, 8 Johan Durst (gk), 9 Jacob Anderson, 10 Josh Beltz, 11 Eddie Ockenden, 12 Jake Whetton, 15 Jayden Atkinson, 16 Tim Howard, 17 Aran Zalewski (c), 18 Ben Rennie (gk) , 19 Craig Marais, 20 Ky Willott, 21 Jack Welch, 26 James Collins, 33 Hayden Beltz, 36 Anand Gupte, 44 Ben Staines, 48 Davis Atkin