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India finish last in Sydney
Neena Bhandari in Sydney |
April 26, 2004 11:57 IST
Defending champions India finished last, losing to South Africa 0-1 in the play-off for the third place even as Australia won the four-nation Men's Hockey Challenge Cup thrashing Malaysia 7-1 in the final in Sydney on Sunday.
The injury-plagued Indians, who had lost to Australia in the final of the first leg in Canberra last week, looked in complete control for most part of the play-off but were done in by a goal from South African captain and penalty corner specialist Greg Nicol who converted a corner in the 49th minute.
Later in the day, Australia quickly made the final a no contest, pumping in four goals before half time.
There was not let down in the Australian fury even after the break as the scoreboard showed 7-1 when the final hooter went off.
India, who beat South Africa 4-3 on Saturday, began well with both their defence and attack showing remarkable agility. However, caution was the watchword for both the sides, desperate to clinch the consolation third place.
The first half, which ended goal-less, also saw both sides probing the rival area in search of breakthrough. India came close to scoring more than once but Jatinder Pal Singh and Kanwalpreet Singh failed to make use of few gilt-edged chances.
After changing ends, India were reduced to 10-men when right half Sunil Yadav earned a yellow card suspension in the 46th minute. Three minutes later, South Africans made full use of their numerical advantage when Nicol beat Indian goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan, converting the fourth penalty corner earned by the team, with a low flick.
The Indian forward line, led by Gagan Ajit Singh, whose challenge led to the crucial penalty corner in the 49th minute, pressed hard for an equaliser but made little impression on their rival defence.
The Indians managed to force a penalty corner towards the end of the match but Len Aiyappa's drag-flick was padded away by South African 'keeper Dave Staniforth.
The tidings in the twin tournaments in Australia do not portend well for India who are grouped with South Africa and Australia in the Athens Olympics hockey in August.
The Asian Champions never recovered after going down to an under-rated Malaysia 0-3 in their first match of the tournament.
They conceded a 2-2 draw to favourites Australia before beating South Africa 4-3 in their last round-robin league encounter.
A dejected Indian coach Rajinder Singh said India were handicapped due to injuries to three key players.
"We were not fortunate enough to win the match today. We needed to go all out and score goals. However, we had restricted option in changing players as some of the seasoned players -- Prabhjot Singh, Viren Rasquinha and Kanwalpreet Singh -- are recovering from injuries."