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September 17, 2000
Australia swamp PolandThe Rediff Team
At the State Hockey Centre, the predictable full house as the host nation, yet to win a gold in the Olympics though it has won every other major hockey medal worth winning, kicked off its campaign against Poland.
Australia's own nerves, rather than Polish brilliance, proved their worst enemy early on, as the home side played rather patchy hockey, alternating aimless hitting with some interesting moves.
Once they settled, however, the Aussies maintained a relentless pace, pushing the Poles deep into their own half with a cascading wave of attacks.
The best chance on goal though came to the Poles, when their second penalty corner saw the Australians panic a bit. Damon Diletti managed a fine save to keep the scoreboard blank, but it was a near thing, within minutes of the end of first half.
But it was Australia who walked off at the break leading by a goal. The Poles, with the interval in sight, seemed to have mentally slackened just a touch -- and Australia seized the opportunity, Steven Davies taking a shot at goal which was blocked, only for James Elmer to slot home with a nifty reverse stick.
In the second half, it was all Australia. The tone was set early on, when a penalty corner produced three viable shots on the Polish goal -- Elder, Brennan, Livermore all taking cracking shots one after the other -- which were all saved.
Within minutes, Australia forced yet another penalty through a concerted attack, and this time, veteran Jay Stacy scored off a Livermore stop and layoff, with a nice angled carpet drive, to have the home side up 2-0.
Polish heads were dropping -- and they dropped even further when, soon thereafter, James Elmer got one just inside the box, pivoted, and slammed home past the hapless Polish goal-tender to make it 3-0 for the home side, with just over 16 minutes to play.
By then, the game had descended into a duck shoot, and Michael Brennan came to the party. Troy Elder dribbled one in from the backline, passed, and Brennan produced the finish. 4-0.
For the Aussies, the game provided a good opportunity to stretch their legs in competitive play, ahead of the more demanding games. On display, were the skills that characterise this side -- the lightning pace and stamina that characterises European hockey, and the flair and stickwork that is a more Asian quality.
For the Poles, all that the game afforded was a lesson -- never ease off in matchplay. They did, in the first half just ahead of the drinks interval, and let in a goal. They did again, midway through the second half, and let in two more.
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