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India's inadequacy stands exposed

S. Thyagarajan

  • Bharat Chetri brought off some spectacular saves
  • Mispasses and wrong positioning rendered the Indian frontline ineffective
  • Australia heads the table with 12 points

    UNSTOPPABLE: The Netherlands' Sander van der Weide (right) could not block Australia's Matt Naylor's attempt during their Champions Trophy match. — Photo: Vino John

    CHENNAI: Every ingredient that goes to make a contest lively and pulsating was there, but in the end India's inadequacy to be in line for a possible podium finish was exposed, in the Sahara Champions Trophy here on Wednesday.

    It was no doubt a close contest but the Indians, who conceded a penalty corner goal to Germany, endeavoured haplessly to hit the target but failed in the search.

    Germany would have won by a wider margin but for some spectacular saves by goalkeeper Bharat Chetri. Intrepid and imaginative in his work, not to speak of anticipation, Chetri obviously raised the question why he was not tried earlier in the tournament. He had proved his credentials in the last Rabo Bank event also.

    Within minutes after the start, Chetri made a brilliant save from an attempt by Mathias Witthaus. Then India survived another moment when Kanwalpreet brought off a goal-line save, deflecting a powerful drive pumped by Sebastian Draguhn.

    The stress on the defence was mounting as the combination headed by Christopher Zeller pushed it to the limit. In the mid-field both Vinay and Ignace were resilient, but Vikram Pillay was unpredictable and inconsistent. Vikram played for the major part after the injured Viren Resquinha was in only for a brief while.

    Too much pressure

    The pressure from the German forwards was so heavy that the coach was compelled to use the third defender, William Xalco, who played an excellent game at left-half.

    But all these were not enough as Germany went ahead through a penalty corner goal by Jan Marco Montag, in the 17th minute. Backed by the goodly crowd, the Indian attack could only be flashy without being constructive to break the German bastion.

    A quick sally earned a penalty corner but goalkeeper Bubolz padded a Sandeep's drive nonchalantly. Thereafter there were several attempts to forge a raid but mispasses and wrong positioning rendered the frontline ineffective. Individually, Tushar and Halappa shone in patches as did Prabhjot Singh but overall the attack lacked vigour and fluency to disturb the German defence.

    Germany has increased its tally to five points while India remains at three after four matches. India takes on the Netherlands on Friday.

    Absorbing contest

    In what could conceivably be portrayed as the cup final, Australia and the Netherlands figured in an absorbing contest that climaxed with a superb backhander by Mike McCann. That moment crystallised the berth for Australia for the title clash on Sunday. Four victories in as many matches only showcases the majesty and power of Aussie hockey.

    The Aussies were crisp and less elaborate in their workouts in contrast to the Dutch for whom penalty corner striker Taeke Takema was outstanding. It was two of his whiplash shots from penalty corners that brought the Netherlands on par twice in the game before Mike McCann produced that magic moment.

    Matt Naylor reached a milestone — 2000th goal in the Champions Trophy. Making capital of a feeble interception to an aerial ball he sallied into the circle and finished, leaving the experienced Guus Vogels under the bar dazed.

    Superb drag flick

    The Dutch increased pressure and midway through came a thunder-bolt from Taeke Takema for the equaliser. As though to pay the Dutch in the same coin, Andrew Smith produced an immaculate drag flick to put the Aussies again in the lead at half-time. Takema then produced a grounder off a penalty corner to record the 50th goal of this championship.

    Holland looked set to clinch victory at this point, but Mike McCann's strike two minutes before the end, gave Australia victory.

    Netherlands remains at seven points while Australia continues to head the table with 12 points. Thursday is a rest day.

    Spain outplayed Pakistan to register its second win in the third match of the day. With nothing going right, the Pakistanis were at the receiving end almost throughout, as Spain was 4-0 ahead after the break.

    Only a late recovery brought two goals for Pakistan which was languishing at the last place with a solitary point.

    Spain has increased its tally to six points from four matches.

    The results:

    Australia 3 (Matt Taylor, Andrew Smith, Mike McCann) beat Netherlands 2 (Taeke Takema 2) HT 2-1; Player of the match: Taeke Takema.

    Germany 1 (Jan Marco Montag) bt India 0. Player of the match: Bharat Chetri.

    Spain 4 (Pol Amat 2, David Algre, Xavier Ribas) bt Pakistan 2 (Mudassar Khan, Muhammad Saqlain). HT 3-0. Player of the match: Pol Amat.

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