India ended on a rousing note the FIH Pro League mini-cluster at Rourkela, beating Australia 4-3 in the sudden death shoot-out on the final day of action at the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium here on Wednesday.
It was a highly competitive clash between India and Australia as the two teams played out a 2-2 draw in regulation time to take one point apiece. India then edged Australia in the sudden deaths of the shoot-outs by a 4-3 margin to claim the bonus point.
Through the first five attempts in the shoot-out, the teams stayed level 3-3. With the game heading into sudden death, skipper Harmanpreet Singh, who was adjudged the Player of the Match, scored his second attempt in the shoot-outs giving India the lead, and P.R Sreejesh made his 3rd save of the shoot-outs against Jack Welch to give India the win in the shoot-outs and the bonus point.
India thus claimed 11 out of the 12 points available at home and have now extended their lead at the top of the Pro League table, moving up to 19 points from 8 games.
India got off to a bright start as they won an early penalty corner when a long aerial ball by Harmanpreet nearly found Abhishek but his space was encroached upon by a backpedalling James Collins.
Vivek Sagar Prasad, playing his 100th game, was on target for India as the first flick by Harmanpreet was well run down. Vivek collected the ball, brought it into the circle and unleashed a powerful tomahawk shot perfectly into the bottom right corner of the goal.
The quarter belonged to the hosts as India kept peppering the Australian goal with attacks and nearly doubled their lead through Hardik Singh. As a cross by Sukhjeet evaded Indian and Australian sticks in front of the goal to reach Hardik on the far post, but his reverse flick was off target.
In the second quarter, Australia got their first penalty corner of the game in the 20th minute as Jarmanpreet Singh won possession inside the Indian circle but his pass to Sumit went straight out of the backline. The resulting penalty corner was well saved by seasoned goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh who got his boot out to his left and made a save.
Nathan Ephraums came close to levelling the score midway through the second quarter as he rounded Sreejesh and took a shot from a narrow angle, but his shot hit the post and went out of play.
Australia maintained their ascendancy at the start of the second half and won a penalty corner in the second minute after the restart. Anand Gupte whipped a powerful drag flick from the corner but it went just wide to the left. Australia were back level in the 37th minute as young goalkeeper Pawan’s tackle across Ephraums did not make contact with the ball but brought the Australian forward down, winning them a penalty stroke, which was dispatched with ease by Ephraums.
India went into the lead early in the final quarter as a spectacular spin and cross by Sukhjeet in the Australian circle was put into the goal by Eddie Ockenden as he tried to step in front of Karthi. It was a double blow for the visitors as Ockenden referred the goal for a push in the build-up but there was no evidence of the same and Australia lost their referral.
Australia pulled level midway through the final quarter as a fantastic routine from a penalty corner saw Ephraums deflect a low shot by Howard that wrong-footed Sreejesh and crashed into the backboard.
Neither team could find a winner in a nervy final quarter with most of the game played in the midfield. The game headed into a shoot-out, with both teams looking for the bonus point after sealing a point each from the draw in regulation time.