World champions Australia got the better of defending champions the Netherlands 3-2 in a high-voltage first semi-final to progress to the title round of the ongoing Hockey World League (HWL) Final, at the Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Stadium, in Raipur, on Friday.
The match between the world's top two teams turned out to be an exciting affair as Australia scored through Dylan Wotherspoon (8th minute), Daniel Beale (22ndminute) and Matt Gohdes (42nd), while Constantijn Jonker (29th) and Mirco Pruijser (33rd) were the goal-getters for the Netherlands, who suffered their first defeat in the tournament.
Australia started strongly and had the better share of possession and shots at the goal in the first 25 minutes of the game.
They secured as many as four penalty-corners in the opening two quarters but utilised just one.
They earned their first penalty-corner as early as in the second minute but Kieran Govers’s flick was saved by Netherlands goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann.
Stockmann again came to Netherlands’ rescue two minutes later when he denied Trent Mitton after he was set up by a fine pass from veteran Jamie Dwyer.
Two minutes later Dwyer again combined with Mitton to set up another scoring opportunity but the latter pushed the ball wide with only Stockmann to beat.
Australia continued to press hard and put pressure on the Netherlands defence which resulted in their second penalty-corner but Stockmann came up with double save to first deny Jeremy Hayward and then Dwyer from the rebound.
But Australia finally tasted success in the eighth minute when Wotherspoon scored after some brilliant stick work by Dwyer.
Netherlands replied strongly in the next minute but Roel Bovendeert's effort was kept away by an alert Australian custodian Andrew Charter.
In the 13th minute, Pruijser's shot from close range was saved by Charter to frustrate the Dutchmen.
Australia secured their third penalty-corner in the 22nd minute and Beale scored from a rebound after Dwyer's initial try from a variation was kept away by Stockmann.
Down by two goals, the Netherlands made a strong finish to the second quarter and created a few chances but luck eluded them till the 29th minute when Jonker scored from second attempt after Bjorn Kellerman's try was saved by Charter.
Three minute into the second half the Dutch equalised through Pruijser, who deflected in Jeroen Hertberger's backhand hit.
The Netherlands goalkeeper Stockmann made numerous saves to keep the team in the match and one of them came in the 40th minute when he denied Govers.
Australia restored their lead soon through Gohdes, who's slightest of touch from a Beale hit from outside the circle found the back of the Dutch net.
In the final minute of the third quarter, the Dutch earned as many as three penalty-corners in succession but without success.
With 15 minutes remaining in the game, they did everything they could to scored the equaliser but the Australian defended in numbers to thwart any threat to their goal.
Australia will play the winner of Saturday’s second semi-final between hosts India and Belgium in the final on Sunday.