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Late goal sinks India Sportsdesk | August 20, 2004 01:00 IST
Last Updated: August 20, 2004 03:08 IST

Wednesday's match results

Netherlands 3 South Africa 2
Pakistan 3 South Korea 0
Germany 6 Egypt 1
Spain 5 Great Britain 1
New Zealand 3 Argentina 1
Australia 4 India 3

India came up with a fighting display but it was not enough to prevent them from going down 3-4 to Australia in their third Group B match in the men's Olympic hockey tournament in Athens on Thursday.

Michael Brennan's goal 30 seconds from the hooter clinched victory for the Aussies in a thrilling encounter that saw all seven goals come from attacking field play.

The Australians capitalized on the advantage of India being reduced to ten men after Dhanraj Pillay was harshly sent off seven minutes from the end for a backstick tackle to take full points.

The defeat was India's second in three matches while Australia registered their second victory after a draw against Argentina in their previous match.

There was a refreshing change in India's play today. They used the width of the field and held possession, something they did not do in the first two matches. The midfield, where Viren Rasquinha was outstanding once again, also intelligently held the ball and exploited the gaps to put the forwards through. But the forwards were unable to force a single penalty corner in the match compared to Australia's six. And when Australia attacked, poor trapping and tackling by the defence did them in.

Barely six minutes had elapsed before India drew first blood. A good run down the right earned them a free hit. Baljit Dhillon's hit travelled across the striking circle and Deepak Thakur did well to connect the ball past goalkeeper Stephen Mowlan to make it 1-0.

India could have scored again four minutes later, but Gagan Ajit Singh's stiff shot from close was palmed away by Mowlan. Off the rebound, Prabhjot Singh was well-placed to score, but failed to tap home as the ball passed between his legs.

The Aussies switched the ball to the other end in a counterattack much against the run of play. A scrimmage ensued inside the circle and Troy Elder trapped a feeble clearance on the right of the circle and dispatched home to restore parity.

In the 19th minute the Aussies forced two consecutive penalty corners, but the Indians defended admirably.

Goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza then came to India's rescue in the 27th and 30th minutes, first effecting a superb save off Australia's third penalty corner and then stretching fully to save a stiff reverse hit by Jaime Dwyer from close.

But Dwyer, opportunist that he is, was not to be denied for long. Four minutes into the second session, he caught the Indian defence napping as he dispossessed Harpal Singh on the left and let go a rising shot that gave goalkeeper D'Souza no chance.

Ten minutes later, Michael McCann made it 3-1 for the Aussies after sneaking in behind the Indian defence and tapping the ball home following a cross from the left.

That goal sparked the Indians to life and they pulled back with two quick goals in the 50th and 52nd minutes. Gagan Ajit Singh made the score 2-3 deflecting home a long hit into the circle by Harpal Singh and then Arjun Halappa finished off a quick attacking run down the middle between Dhanraj Pillay and Ignace Tirkey.

With the score tied at 3-3, both teams gave little away though the Indian goalkeeper was called on to prevent the citadel from falling a couple of times more.

Then came Pillay's surprising expulsion by umpire John Wright of South Africa. The backstick tackle certainly did not warrant a yellow card. In fact, there can be no gainsaying that the umpires were quite harsh on the Indians, repeatedly categorising their scoops as dangerous play while turning a blind eye to infringements by the Aussies.

With barely 30 seconds to go for the final hooter, a quick counterattack down the left caught the Indian defence napping and Brennan had the easiest of tasks of tapping a cross home.

India play New Zealand next on Saturday.

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