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Indian eves lose hockey opener

March 16, 2006 16:06 IST

Defending champions India started their title defence on a disastrous note, being outplayed by formidable Australia before losing 2-4 in the women's hockey tournament at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne on Thursday.

The teams were locked 2-2 at half-time before Rebecca Sanders (41st minute) and Angela Skirving (70th) scored to clinch victory for the hosts.

Earlier, Wendy Beattie (1st minute), Karen Smith (24th) scored for the winners.

For India, Asunta Lakra (14th minute) and Mamta Kharab (22nd) scored.

- Commonwealth Games coverage

The scoreline is not the true reflection of Australia's dominance. They forced as many as 10 penalty-corners, but could convert only two, while the Indians scored from both the penalty-corners they received.

The Indians have to thank goalkeeper Helen Mary, who made some spectacular saves. Otherwise, the margin of defeat would have been higher.

The match started ominously for the Indians, as in the first minute the hosts struck through Beattie. The Hockeyroos launched a frontal attack from the word go and before the Indians could settle down they were one up.

Mamta Kharab (L) challenges Melanie TwittThe defending champions managed to regroup soon and in the sixth minute had a good chance to equalise but Saba Anjum, who only had to beat the goalkeeper to beat, muffed the chance. After that, for next seven minutes Indians came under tremendous pressure but defenders Rajwinder Kaur, Kanti Baa and goalkeeper Helen Mary warded off the attacks.

The first fruitful Indian attack came in the 14th minute when they earned their first penalty-corner and Kanti Baa, instead of taking a direct hit, relayed the ball to unmarked Asunta Lakra, who lunged forward to defelct the ball home.

Eight minutes later, the Indians stunned the huge crowd when they forced their second penalty-corner. This time Mamta Kharab pushed the ball and Baa's shot hit the post; Kharab, who was standing nearby, made no mistake, pushing the ball home to the bewilderment of the hosts.

However, India could not defend the lead for long as the Australians mounted pressure and forced the equaliser within two minutes through Karen Smith, who captalised on a defensive lapse.

But India kept the pressure with Mamta Kharab, Saba Anjum and Jasjit Handa making some good moves with Jyoti Kullu in the right flank.

The Indians were reduced to 10 players five minutes before the breather when their skipper, Sumrai Tete, was shown the yellow card.

The second half was simply a washout for them as the Australians virtually laid a siege around their citadel. The Indians crowded their defence as the rivals mounted attacks from all sides, but the defence fell in the 41st minute with the hosts earning their fourth penalty-corner and this time Rebecca Sanders deflected the ball following an indirect attempt.

There was no looking back for the Aussies after that and soon it became a battle between their forwards and goalkeeper Helen.

Helen frustrated the Australians as she foiled innumerable attacks but just before the final whistle she also caved in.

Australia forced their 10th penalty-corner and this time Angela Skirving, with a powerful drag flick, sent the ball home (4-2).

"Australia played an attacking game throughout and they deserved to win,'' said Indian coach M K Kaushik after the match.

''The girls played well, especially in the first half, but the rivals dominated the second session,'' he said, adding, ''I have no excuse to offer.''

He hoped that his side would will come good and win their next league matches.