Johor Bahru (Malaysia), Oct 16 : The Indian junior men’s hockey team today sealed their berth in the final of the 9th Sultan of Johor Cup after an emphatic 5-1 victory over Australia at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium here on Wednesday.
The clinical performance saw goals from Shilanand Lakra (26′, 29′), Dilpreet Singh (44′), Gursahibjit Singh (48′) and Mandeep Mor (50′).
India had a first sight of goal in the opening minute courtesy of an Australian mistake. A misjudgement off an aerial ball meant Gursahibjit was clear on goal in the circle.
Robert Maclennan was quick to come off his line though and block the angles, before clearing the ball to safety. For the rest of the quarter, both teams wrested for control in midfield, the Aussies earning the first PC of the game in the eighth minute, a mistrap putting paid to their chances to score.
Early in the second quarter, Prashant Chauhan was called into action. Off a swift attack, Michael Francis’ shot was deflected by Sam McCulloch towards goal.
Chauhan was alive to the danger though, pulling off a reflex save to keep the scores level. India earned their first PC of the game minutes later, but Gursahibjit dragged his attempt wide.
India were soon coming closer to scoring the opener, and sure enough, in the 26th minute they had the lead courtesy a Shilanand Lakra goal. The move was kicked off from a counter, Dilpreet Singh’ inch perfect pass unlocking the entire Aussie defence.
The ball fell to Lakra in the circle, who had time to go around a charging Maclennan to score and give India the lead. Right at the end of the quarter, Australia almost hit back, with a succession of PCs, but Chauhan again saved superbly to keep his team in the lead.
Off the second PC, India launched a counter, and it was the Dilpreet-Lakra combination again causing havoc in the Australian defence, the latter scoring a simple tap in to double India’s tally. India went into half time leading 2-0.
Despite being two goals up, India didn’t take their foot off the pedal in the third quarter, their full press causing Australia all sorts of problems. They had the pick of the chances too in the period. Shilanand Lakra, Sudeep Chirmako and Uttam Singh applied the pressure, forcing saves off Australia’s substitute goalkeeper Christian Starkie.
In the 44th minute, Dilpreet Singh had his reward for his brilliance throughout the game. This time the pass came from Gursahibjit Singh, finding Dilpreet at the base of the circle. Dilpreet turned, swerved and unleashed a superb reverse hit into the far corner to give India a 3-0 lead. It was one they took into the final break.
India earned a third PC at the start of the third quarter, and Sanjay’s drag flick was deflected by Gursahibjit to extend India’s lead. Mandeep Mor added more gloss to the scoreline with a superb drag flick in the 50th minute. Aaron Knight scored a consolation in the 57th minute for Australia as India wrapped up a 5-1 victory.
India will face Great Britain in their final round robin league-stage match in Johor Bahru on October 18.