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September 21, 2000
Spain holds Australia 2-2The Rediff Team
Australia, yet to win an Olympic gold, had beaten Poland 4-0 in its opening encounter, but was then held to a draw by India, giving it 4 points going into this game. A defeat would keep it level with India, which after its early morning draw against South Korea, was on four points from three games.
For its part, Spain was struggling with a single point, having drawn with Korea in the opening encounter before losing to Poland 4-1. Spain, the Atlanta silver medallists, thus needed a win to try and get back into a pool in which it seemed to be sinking.
For once Australia, the Atlanta Games bronze medallists, shed the initial lethargy and got of to a fluent start. A penalty corner early on to Australia was messed up, but in the melee the ball came to Livermore, who passed to Wells, on to Stephen Davies for a clean strike in the 8th minute.
Though Austrralia had the best of the exchanges, Spain mounted a few dangerous moves on the counter, using speed to breakaway from their own half and harass the Australians. One such run saw the Spanish forward being unfairly checked, resulting in a penalty corner. Diletti, in the Australian goal, saved superbly but Pablo Pol Amat pounced on the rebound and slammed it home to equalise .
Australia could have shut the game down before the breather, but first Jay Stacy, then Stephen Holt made a mess of penalty corners.
The second half started with a stunner when Spain, very much against the run of play, went into the lead. A fast run down the right flank caught the Aussie defence napping, Arnau Xavi got the ball and beat Diletti in goal with a stiff grounder, in the third minute of the second half.
Spain seemed to relax just a touch, and that proved fatal as Australia struck back almost immediately thereafter. Davies took the ball into the circle, Adam Commens took over and shot, and the Spanish goalie managed merely to touch it with his glove en route to the goal.
Australia have Diletti to thank for not going once more into arrears, when a Spain penalty corner produced what looked like a sure goal, till the Aussie goalie got in the way. Spain and Australia then settled down to a series of midfield skirmishes, neither side actually being able to impose its will on the other.
Diletti in fact had an outstanding game, as Spain forced a series of penalty corners. A smart save off a Ribas hit was followed by a superb save, at full stretch, to an Amat hit. As the game wound down, the pressure got to both sides, and manifested itself in some rough play. Xavier Ribas was sent off for an unfair tackle followed by some argument with the umpire. Australia had the advantage of playing 11 against 10, with over ten minutes to go, but promptly squandered it when Paul Gaudoin was shown a yellow card, and showed a tendency to debate it with the umpire. He was promptly sent off, and parity was restored in personnel as well.
Spain kept up a series of attacks, forcing the Aussies to defend for what remained of the game. Jay Stacy, Australia's most experienced player with 310 internationals and two previous Olympics to his name, had a brilliant breakaway move that resulted in a through ball to Brennan, who with an open goal in front of him, missed.
That was about it. Two tired sides fought through the few remaining minutes, mostly in midfield, till the final whistle.
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