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India trump Thundersticks 2-0 in Aussie tour opener



Birendra Lakra scored India's opening goal against WA Thundersticks on Wednesday.

Defenders Birendra Lakra (23′) and Harmanpreet Singh (50′) score in India’s win

Perth: The Indian men’s hockey team started their Australia Tour 2019 with a warm-up match which saw them produce a disciplined 2-0 win over the WA Thundersticks here at the Perth Hockey Stadium on Wednesday. Goals from Birendra Lakra (23′) and Harmanpreet Singh (50′) secured the win for the visitors in their opening match of the tour where they also play the Australian team on May 15 and May 17.

The match saw both the teams play fluent hockey inside the first quarter which saw them create a few opportunities. First, it was India’s debutant Jaskaran Singh who shot at goal in the fifth minute, but could not keep it on target, while the home team also tried their best to penetrate India’s defence, but were well kept out via resilient defending by Harmanpreet Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh. India’s experienced forward Akashdeep Singh also had a shot at goal towards the end of the first quarter, but WA Thundersticks’ goalkeeper Ben Rennie made a fine save to deny him.

Harmanpreet Singh scored the second goal.

India started dominating proceedings in the second quarter as captain Manpreet Singh and Mandeep Singh took turns to shoot at the home team’s goal, but forced good saves by their goalkeeper. India’s dominance in possession and patient build-up play saw them create another opportunity in the 23rd minute, which saw defender Birendra Lakra score a field goal through a delightful finish to give his team a 1-0 lead. After conceding, WA Thundersticks tried to make a comeback in the match but India’s defence again proved to be too strong for the home side.

A well matched third quarter between the two sides kept the defenders of both the teams on their toes. First, it was  Thundersticks who looked threatening through a circle entry, but India looked to catch the home side out on the counter led by Gursahibjit Singh. The 40th minute saw Birendra Lakra in the thick of action again as he found Sumit on the edge of the circle, who showed a burst of pace and made a circle entry towards the right side, but could not produce a final pass. Mandeep Singh also found himself in a similar position two minutes later, but Thundersticks defended well to see out the third quarter.

The last quarter started well for the Indian team as they pushed for a second goal, which finally came through a Penalty Corner in the 50th minute. Harmanpreet Singh took a well-crafted drag-flick to put the ball into the back of the net and extend his team’s lead to two goals with 10 minutes remaining. The away side looked more threatening in the next few minutes but Thundersticks also tried to counter. In the 57th minute, the home side were awarded back-to-back Penalty Corners but India’s defence made sure that they saw out a 2-0 win to start their tour on a high.

The Indian Men’s Hockey team will play their next match against Australia ‘A’ on May 10.

Hockey Lounge

Hockey: Australia too hot for India



It was India's first defeat in four matches in their Australian tour. Photo; Twitter

Perth: After remaining unbeaten in their first three matches of the Australia Tour 2019, world no. 5 India slumped to a 0-4 defeat to the hosts in their fourth match at the Perth Hockey Stadium here on Wednesday.

Australia’s Blake Govers (15′, 60′) and Jeremy Hayward (20′, 59′) scored a brace each to help the World No. 2 team defeat the visitors.

India started well as they pressed Australia higher up the field, but were dealt two successive blows as they ended up conceding twice in five minutes.

The visitors had earlier earned themselves an early Penalty Corner (PC) in the 5th minute but Harmanpreet Singh’s shot was successfully blocked.

With just seconds remaining on the clock for the first quarter, Australia were awarded their first PC and it resulted in India conceding their first goal.

Australia’s Blake Govers stepped up to take the set-piece and did not make a mistake as he hit the ball past P.R. Sreejesh into the top-left corner to give his side a 1-0 lead.

India started the second quarter in attacking style as Birendra Lakra played a hard-hit ball into the centre of the circle but Australia’s Captain Eddie Ockenden was present to deflect it behind.

However, on the other end of the pitch, Lakra was in action again and was penalised for a back-stick inside the 15-yard circle, which resulted in a PC in the 20th minute.

The resulting execution saw Indian goalkeeper Krishan Pathak give away another PC, and India ended up conceding their second goal as Jeremy beautifully flicked the ball low into the right side of goal.

Aaron Kleinschmidt missed a great chance in the 25th minute as he found himself unmarked inside the box but shot just wide off the post.

Struggling to keep possession, India tried to create an opportunity of their own as they earned themselves a PC in the 26th minute, but the umpire deemed that Harmanpreet Singh obstructed the Australian defender and awarded them a free hit.

A minute later, India won their fifth PC through Sumit Kumar but Australia’s Goalkeeper Johan Durst made a brilliant double save from Harmanpreet Singh’s shots to deny the visitors a goal.

Australia’s fifth PC in the last minute of the second quarter saw Trent Mitton’s shot forcing a great save by Pathak on his right side, which meant Australia took their two-goal advantage into the half-time break.

The third quarter was a well-balanced period between the two teams as they battled for possession but neither was able to score.

India started the last quarter well. Captain Manpreet Singh created the first chance as he ran into the striking circle and shot at the goal but Australia’s Durst made a diving stop on his left side to deny the visitors a goal.

India tried to find a goal in the closing stages and replaced their goalkeeper with an outfield player. The move resulted in Australia scoring two goals in the last two minutes, the first coming off a PC in the 59th minute, scored by Jeremy, while the second came in the last minute as Blake scored through a fierce shot off the reverse stick to make it a 4-0 victory for Australia.

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HI names 18-member Indian women’s team for Korea Tour



Rani Rampal (right) will lead an 18-member team in the three-match series in Korea.

New Delhi: Hockey India on Friday named an 18-member women’s team for the Republic Of Korea Tour scheduled to begin on May 20 at the Jinchun National Athletic Centre, Korea. The Indian team will be playing a bilateral series of three Test Matches against the Korean Women’s Hockey team under chief coach Sjoerd Marijne, and will be captained by forward Rani Rampal. Goalkeeper Savita has been named the vice-captain of the squad. 

The matches will help the Indian team in preparing for the FIH Women’s Series Finals Hiroshima 2019, which is scheduled to be held from June 15 to 23 in Hiroshima, Japan. Since the start of the year, the Indian team has also toured Spain in January-February 2019 where they played bilateral matches against the host nation and Ireland, which saw them finish with a record of two wins, three draws and a loss. The team also embarked on their Malaysia Tour in April 2019 which saw them remain unbeaten against the home side as they won four matches and drew one. 

Experienced Goalkeepers Savita and Rajani Etimarpu will be guarding the goalpost in the three-match Republic Of Korea tour while defender Gurjit Kaur makes a return to the team after having missed the Malaysia Tour due to injury. She will be accompanied by Salima Tete, Sunita Lakra, Deep Grace Ekka, Karishma Yadav and Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam in defence, while Monika, Navjot Kaur, Nikki Pradhan, Neha Goyal and Lilima Minz will command the midfield for India. Captain Rani also makes a return after missing Malaysia Tour due to injury, and she will be joined by Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Jyoti and Navneet Kaur in attack.

Gurjit Kaur

Speaking about the importance of the tour ahead of the FIH Women’s Series Finals Hiroshima 2019, chief coach Sjoerd Marijne said, “I am happy with the return of experienced players like Rani and Gurjit Kaur in the squad, and pleased that they are fully fit to play these matches. This tour will give us the chance to take a good final step against a strong opponent in our preparation for the FIH Women’s Series Finals Hiroshima 2019. We have identified areas in our game that needed improvement from our past two tours this year, and have worked on them in training, and it is now time to show the improvement in the matches.”

Squad: Goalkeepers: Savita (vice-captain), Rajani Etimarpu; Defenders: Salima Tete, Sunita Lakra, Deep Grace Ekka, Karishma Yadav, Gurjit Kaur, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam; Midfielders: Monika, Navjot Kaur, Nikki Pradhan, Neha Goyal, Lilima Minz; Forwards: Rani (captain), Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Jyoti, Navneet Kaur.

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Hockey Lounge

India remain unbeaten, hold Australia ‘A’ in third game



India captain Manpreet Singh (right) tackles an Australia 'A' player during the third game of their five-match series in Perth on Monday.

Harmanpreet Singh (56′) scored the equaliser to hold Australia ‘A’ 1-1 in the ongoing Australia Tour

Perth: A late goal by dragflicker Harmanpreet Singh in the 56th minute saw India overcome a 0-1 deficit to draw 1-1 against Australia ‘A’ in a well-contested match here on Monday. Earlier in the tournament India had registered a 2-0 win against Western Australia Thundersticks and 3-0 win against Australia ‘A’.

Two good saves in the initial minutes of the first quarter by goalkeeper Krishan Pathak and Gurinder Singh while defending back-to-back PCs awarded to Australia ‘A’ was confidence-boosting for India. The attempt had somewhat made up for an average start by the visitors as Australia ‘A’ attack put the team under pressure right from the start.

Harmanpreet Singh scored the equaliser in the 56th minute.

While the first quarter ended in a stalemate, the visitors suffered a setback in the 21st minute when Kiran Arunasalam struck a fine field goal for Australia ‘A’. “We had a poor start in the first ten minutes of the game which was a complete opposite to how we played on Friday,” chief coach Graham Reid stated.

“We slowly got back into the game in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters and also created enough opportunities to win the game,” Reid said. However, not being able to convert the chances created in the striking circle and missing out on three PCs dented India’s fightback.

India’s defence, on the other hand, was able to contain the home team from taking a further lead and also came up with commendable PC defending to deny Australia ‘A’ from converting the two PCs they were awarded in the second and third quarter respectively. It was in Harmanpreet Singh’s second attempt in the 56th minute that he converted a well-timed, powerful dragflick to equalise the score at 1-1. His previous attempt only a minute earlier was well-saved by an Australian defender.

On Wednesday, India will take on the Australian national side in what promises to be yet another exciting game and if India wish to emerge on top, Reid said the team will need to start much better and keep the pressure on their opponents in all four quarters. “On Wednesday we will need to start much better and play well in all four quarters. In tomorrow’s practice session we will be working on our connections especially in the midfield,” stated the chief coach.

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