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September 19, 2000
India, Australia play out 2-2 draw
The Rediff Team
India and Australia played out a 2-2 draw in their crucial Group B league match in the men's Olympic hockey competition on Tuesday. It was a result both teams, unbeaten in the league with a win and a draw, should be content with.
In other matches in the same group, Korea and Argentina shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw, while Poland whipped 1996 silver medallists Spain 4-1.
Indeed, going by the trend in play, the Indians, who had beaten the home side in the recent four-nation tournament, should have pulled this one off. Never mind that they had fewer attempts at goal -- just two compared to Australia's eight, and only three penalty-corners to their opponents five. They certainly they had the Aussies on the run right through.
However, a defensive lapse on the top of the circle by skipper Ramandeep Singh in the 51st minute perhaps proved their undoing. The otherwise dependable linkman lost control of the ball as he slipped. Jay Stacy, on the right flank, picked up the lose ball, saw Craig Victory on the other flank, advanced and crossed square. His rasping hit beat the entire defence as an unmarked Victory did well to trap cleanly and beat goalkeeper Jude Menezes with a rising shot.
India got off to a whirlwind start straight from the hit-off. Dhanraj Pillay and Mukesh Kumar worked their way down the middle with a quick one-two getting past Jason Duff and Stephen Holt. Pillay found the gap between two defenders for Mukesh to place past an advancing goalkeeper in to goal.
The reverse saw the Austrailians step up the pace and break into the Indian 25 immediately. Jay Stacy had a try at goal but goalkeeper Jude Menezes did well to deflect at the cost of a penalty-corner, Australia's first.
Brennan pushed and Elder's shot was well cleared by the Indian defence at the cost of another penalty-corner. This time Stacy made no mistake with a rasping drive that sounded the boards.
Only five minutes into the game and two goals already. The stage was set for an engrossing battle. Both teams continued at a scorching pace, each harrying the other's defence in equal measure.
India forced two quick penalty-corners in the 16th minute but Dilip Tirkey and Ramandeep Singh made a hash of them.
The Aussie suddenly gained ascendancy. Adam Commens came close to scoring but his shot was cleared by goalkeeper Menezes. Immediately the Aussies forced two more penalty-corners, but Stacy's attempts were blocked.
And much against the run of play, India, with a clever prompt from Mohammad Riaz from midfield put the dangerous Pillay through to force a penalty-corner in the 25th minute. This time Baljit Dhillon stepped to the top of the circle to take the try. His drag flick beat a host of defenders and found the roof of the net.
Australia pressed hard for the equaliser but the Indian defence held out to cross over 2-1 at the breather.
In the second half the Indians attempted to slow down the pace. The move seemed to pay off as they controlled the midfield and held a slight edge. But the minor lapse by the Indian skipper cost the dear.
After the Australians equalised India continued to hold sway but found it difficult to break through the crowded Aussie defence.
Twelve minutes from time Australia could have wrapped up the match. In a goalmouth melee, Commens capitalised on a Jay Stacy rebound and drove goalwards with Indian goalkeeper Menezes caught on the wrong foot. But full back Dilip Tirkey did well to save on the goalline.
That was the last chance of the match. What a wonderful 70 minutes of play. Speed, skill and sportsmanship. All were there. That's why the capacity crowd stood in unison to applaud as old warhorses Stacy and Pillay locked each other in a warm embrace as the teams trooped off the field.
India's goalkeeper Jude Menezes, who had another good match following his magnificent showing against Argentina in the opener, was happy with the result. "We have only one goal and that is to win gold," he said. "There are still things we must work on, like tightening up our defence, but we're confident of doing it."
Argentina force Korea to a draw
A late equaliser from Jorge Lombi enabled Argentina to snatch a 2-2 draw with South Korea in earlier pool B action.
Lombi opened the scoring four minutes into the second half but South Korea levelled through Yeo Woon-Kon two minutes later and opened up a 2-1 lead, courtesy of Ji Seong-Hwan in the 62nd minute.
All four goals came from penalty corners in a tense match Argentina badly needed to win after falling to India.
After Lombi secured the draw, the proud South Americans embarked on a lap of honour as if they had won the tournament.
British coach gets one-match ban
In the women's competition, The Netherlands were held to a 2-2 draw by Olympic debutants South Africa, just two days after losing 2-1 to the unheralded Chinese team.
The Dutch found the net twice inside the first 20 minutes but South Africa bravely fought back to level the pool D match.
There was frustration also for defending Olympic champions Australia, who managed only a 1-1 draw with Spain in their pool C match.
Spain have slipped dramatically in the world rankings since winning gold in Barcelona in 1992, but will take great heart from restricting one of the best attacking sides to a solitary goal.
Britain will have to face South Korea in their women's pool C match on Wednesday without coach John Royce, who was banned for one match for swearing at a female doping control escort.
An FIH spokesman said the decision was taken after Royce had used "crude and inappropriate language" following his side's 1-0 defeat by Argentina on Monday.
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