Friday, October 8, 2010

Gold as good as Australia's

The Australian men's hockey team celebrating after scoring the fourth goal in a group game on Thursday. Australia beat India 5-2. Photo: S. Subramanium

AUSTRALIA overcame a strong challenge from host nation India in the men’s hockey competition of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, with the mighty Kookaburras emerging as 2-5 winners in the big match of Day 4. The reigning world champions were in ruthless form, confirming beyond all doubt that they are clear favourites for the Gold medal with a superb display of attacking hockey.
With both the host and the top ranked team in the world number on the field, it was no surprise that the Dhyan Chand National Hockey Stadium was filled to capacity. However, the home fans had to watch in awe as Australia surged into a 2-0 lead inside six minutes thanks to field goals from Des ABBOTT and Trent MITTON. India restored belief to their supporters when Dharamvir SINGH scored from open play in the 12th minute to make the score 2-1.
There were no further goals until the 48th minute of the game, when Eddie OCKENDEN found the target with a slick penalty corner routine before field goals in the 54th and 58th minutes from Liam DE YOUNG and Glenn TURNER established a 1-5 lead. Sandeep SINGH made completed the scoring in the 70th minute with a well taken penalty corner, but it was little more than a consolation effort for India.
Speaking after the match, Australia’s Trent MITTON was clearly impressed with the experience of playing against India in a full Dhyan Chand National Hockey Stadium. “They said it would be absolutely packed, but no one can tell you what it’s really going to be like.”
Mark KNOWLES also added his thoughts about the experience: "The love of hockey here in India is something we really enjoy."
India’s Prabodh TIRKEY conceded that his team failed to recover from Australia’s fine early start in the match. “In the first half, the goals scored against us were very fast. That took a lot of confidence out of us.”
The win put Australia at the top of the Group B, being level on points with Pakistan but having a far superior goal difference.
In Group B, England men were held to a 1-1 draw by Canada, a result which will have disappointed a team with Gold medal ambitions of their own. Canada took a shock lead when Iain SMYTHE netted in the 13th minute, with England having to wait until the 50th minute before Simon MANTELL scored his third goal of the tournament from open play. The Canadian back-line survived a second half onslaught from the England attackers to claim a share of the points.
The morning session featured one game in each of the women’s Groups. Scotland kept their Semi Final hopes alive with a 6-1 thrashing of Trinidad & Tobago in Group A, while in Group B Wales grabbed all three points against Malaysia thanks to a 2-1 win.