With a display that was energetic and enterprising, not to mention the degree of all round efficiency, Australia smashed the euphoria born out of the win against Pakistan, by inflicting a heavy 5-2 defeat on India in a pool B encounter in the Hero Honda hockey World Cup on Tuesday. The winner led 3-1 at half-time.
The essence of the Aussie attacking component was acceleration. Shifting the ball across the ground with astounding velocity, the frontline subjugated the Indian defenders within minutes. In the space of first seven minutes, the Aussies were two goals up.
A quick sally by Liem de Young split the defence. The attacker's lobbing shot hit the cross piece but Liem was alert enough to wrest the rebound and finish.
Within minutes the lead was enlarged. A penalty corner ground shot ended with Glen Turner lurching ahead and directing the ball in.
India, sans Shivendra Singh, launched a series moves no doubt but none of them was sharp enough to pierce the Aussie defensive phalanx. Rajpal Singh sent waves of excitement in the huge crowd with his sinuous runs down the line. The cross passes generated a lot of excitement and action in the Aussie circle.
With Sardar Singh playing a key role in spraying the passes assisted well by Vikram Pillay and Bharat Chikara lending a helping hand, the Aussies were contained for a while. But midway through the Aussies were again on the prowl that ended with Desmond Abbot slotting the third goal after Kavanagh Fergus went on the move.
The long passes by Rajpal and Deepak caused some strain in the Aussie circle, Prabhjot and Halappa ventured to test the rival goal-keeper Nathan Burgers. But success was achieved late in the first half with Vikram Pillay finally breaking the bastion driving in a cross from the right.
Holding the whip hand
The Aussies held the whip hand after the break netting two goals in quick succession through Luke Doerner and Glenn Tuner widening the gap. India's defence work was in a shambles even Deepak Thakur and Rob Hammond got the yellow card for a skirmish.
Coming in fits and starts, the Indian attack showed no sign of conquering the Aussie defence. However, midway through India managed to reduce the margin thanks to Rajpal Singh who flicked in a cross from Halappa following a penalty corner.
With five minutes remaining Australia earned a stroke for an obstruction by Gurbaj but Adrian made a splendid save to deny Jaime Dwyer the goal. A yellow card for Halappa reduced the team to 10 in the final minutes. The thumping victory this evening came as a balm for Australia after the reverse against England on the opening day.
Pakistan picked up full points against Spain, winning by the odd goal in three.
The match-winner came three minutes before the hooter when the young Abdul Haseem deflected in a withering penalty corner hit by Sohail Abbas. Interestingly, this was the only penalty corner for Pakistan in the tie. The second, awarded a minute before the end, was turned down by the video umpire.
This was a contest that Pakistan deserved to win, although there were phases when the players looked slightly timorous. Though the artistry that has always underlined Pakistan's approach was missing, the players displayed the determination to succeed as to keep their chances alive after losing the opening game against India. Initially, the sizzling runs down the line by Shakeel Abbasi sufficiently troubled the Spanish defenders.
If only Shakeel had appropriate support from the rest, a goal could have emerged within 10 minutes but Rehan Butt wasted a beautiful chance.
It was the young Abdul Haseem who managed break the Spanish defensive wall and finished with a clever lob even as Rehan jumped high to tap in. But the ball hit the net before Rehan could have a touch.
Akbar stands firm
Pressing hard for the equaliser, the Spaniards led by David Alagre and Albert Sala stretched the rival defence. But goal-keeper Salman Akbar proved a tough nut to crack, making a few daring saves.
Pakistan owed a lot to the tireless midfielder Waseem Ahmed, who baulked many a raid fashioned by a Spanish attack which missed the expertise of Eduard Taubau. Even the usually athletic Pablo Amat was below par.
Earlier, there were goals galore as England engaged South Africa in a lively encounter — the 500th in the competition since the first edition in 1971— in a Pool B encounter.
The 6-4 result conveys the cornucopia of goals, six of them surfacing in the second half after the teams went for the break at 2-2.
Some of the goals were spectacular to behold. It is difficult to pinpoint which among them was the peach because each was exciting in its own way. If compelled to name, two by South Africa's winger Marvin Harper were eye-catching. He gave the lead putting the finishing touches to a cross from Thomas Hammand and in the second half, threw himself ahead to connect a cross from the right.
Pool B: Australia 5 (Liem de Young, Glenn Tuner 2, Desmond Abbot, Luke Doerner) beat India 2 (Vikram Pillay, Rajpal Singh) HT 3-1.
England 6 (Richard Mantell 2, Rob Moore, Ashley Jackson, Nick Catlin, Ian Mackay) bt South Africa 4 (Marvin Harper 2, Jones Lloyd Morris, Thornton Mcdade). HT 2-2.
Pakistan 2 (Rehan Butt, Abdul Haseem) bt Spain 1 ( David Alagre). HT 1-0.
Wednesday's matches: Pool A: Germany vs. Canada (4.35 p.m.); Argentina vs. Korea (6.35 p.m.); Netherlands vs. New Zealand (8.35 p.m.).