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Australia win Champions hockey
December 18, 2005 23:33 IST
Olympic champions Australia ended their five-year wait and regained the Champions Trophy after outplaying The Netherlands 3-1 in the rain-marred final in Chennai on Sunday night.
In the summit clash, a repeat final of the 2004 Athens Olympics hockey tournament, Australia completely dominated the proceedings to win their eighth title, which also helped them equal Germany's record for most number of titles.
The win also enabled the Aussies, who exhibited top class hockey throughout the tournament, topping the league with four wins and just a draw against Pakistan, to avenge their defeat in the final to the Netherlands in 2003.
Australia, who last won the title in 1999, skipped last edition in Lahore on security grounds.
Matthew Wells hoisted Australia into the lead in the 21st minute and Liam De Young increased the margin in the 36th minute, just before a heavy downpour forced a 20-minute interruption.
Jamie Dwyer, whose golden goal had helped Australia pip the Dutch 2-1 in the Olympics, sealed the fate of the Netherlands with a superb goal in the 62nd minute.
Veteran Taeke Taekema scored the consolation goal for the losers.
Dwyer was adjudged the man-of-the-match while Bevan George the man-of-the tournament. Spain got the fair play award.
Australia, appeared in all editions barring Lahore since the tournament came into being in 1978 and had earlier won the title in 1983, 1984, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1993 and 1999.
This was their 17th appearance in the final.
As the match commenced under steady drizzle, both the teams were cautious and did not make any worthwhile moves in the first 15-20 minutes.
The Dutch, desperate for a win, were the first to test waters in the Australian area. A shot by Rob Rockers off a cross from Floris Evers was just wide.
In a counterattack, the Australians forced the first penalty-corner when Taeke Taekema's clearance in front of the goal was found dangerous.
That proved to be the turning point and the Olympic champions pounced on the opportunity and converted it with Mathew Wells' shot beating Guus Vogels.
Thereafter, there was no looking back for the Australians and their strong frontline, led by Michael McCann, kept making inroads into the Dutch area.
On the other hand, the Netherlands seemed to be running out of ideas when confronted by the strong Australian defence and even the efforts of veteran Teun de Nooijer, who was yesterday adjudged the World hockey Player of the year, did not bear fruit.
Australia came close to increasing the lead twice in quick succession in the 25th minute but the goal-bound shots by McCann and Grant Schubert were blocked by Vogels.
But the Dutch could not hold them back for long and Australia scored their second goal in the very second minute after the break through Liam De Young.
Soon, a heavy downpour stopped play for 20 minutes.
After play resumed, Australia continued to mount pressure and forced three penalty-corners but failed to convert.
Just as the match was meandering to a close, Jamie Dwyer showed why he is considered dangerous making a solo run from the left, turned and produced a powerful reverse shot that beat Vogels.
The Netherlands scored their first goal with just four minutes left, with Taeke Taekema scoring off a rebound following their first penalty corner.
Earlier, holders Spain pushed eight-time winners Germany to the fourth place with a 5-2 win and claimed the bronze, their second in the history of the tournament, helped by a brace each by Pablo Amat and Santi Frexia. Alex Fabregas scored the other goal.
Twenty-two-year-old Frexia emerged the leading scorer with seven goals to his credit from the six matches.
In the first match of the day, India wasted a good start to finish at the bottom and thus lose the place in the next edition of the tournament to be held in Spain. Pakistan finished fifth and India sixth.
Argentina will replace India in the next Champions Trophy, to be held in Spain, by virtue of their win in the Champions Challenge earlier this year. This is the third time India is finishing sixth the elite tournament, earlier occasions being 1985 in Perth and 1989 in Berlin.