Santiago: India Crush Austria in Olympic Hockey Qualifier

Anand Philar/Rediff

Santiago, Mar 3: India recovered from a shaky start to beat Austria 7-3 for their second consecutive win in the World Hockey Olympic qualifying tournament at the Prince of Wales Country Club in Santiago.

Rocked by a second minute goal, India bounced back in a splendid fashion as Dilip Tirkey (9th, 23rd minutes), Shivendra Singh (51st, 55th), Ignace Tirkey (42nd), Bharat Chhikara (53rd) and Rajpal Singh (53rd) struck telling blows.

Austria, who went into the lead when Robert Buchta scrambled the ball in from a counter-attack in the second minute, kept India on their toes with two penalty-corner conversions by Christian Minar (28th, 59th).

But India, after a poor start with their midfield play in tatters, made up for their first-half lapses with splendid attacking hockey in the second-half when they scored five goals in 13 minutes to take the game away from the Austrians.

The Indians were surprisingly tentative against the European outfit that solely depended on quick counter-attacks, which fetched them no fewer than seven penalty-corners. But the Austrian penalty-corner drill was rather predictable and the Indians were fortunate to get away lightly.

For much of the first-half, the Austrians matched their fancied rivals move for move and goal for goal, giving the Indians many an anxious moment.

However, with the change of ends, the complexion of the game turned dramatically with India going on the rampage. The Austrian defence was simply torn apart by the speed and skill of the Indian forwards who evoked memories of their 7-2 drubbing of Korea in the 2007 Asia Cup final at Chennai.

It was honours even at half-time with Austria surprising the fancied Indians with pacy counter-attacks that stretched the rival defence thin. India, forced to frequently back-pedal, tended to panic and committed a host of mistakes, most of which however went unpunished.

With the Indian midfield surprisingly ragged, Austria scored in the second minute. A diagonal ball from left to right caught the Indian defence napping. Benjamin Stanzl beat full-back William Xalco on the turn, ran 15 yards before crossing to Buchta who swatted home.

The Indians were quick to recover from the early setback and forced a penalty-corner that Dilip Tirkey converted with a well-angled hit to restore parity.

Gaining in confidence, India stepped up the pressure and received their second penalty-corner. Yet again, Dilip Tirkey was successful with a direct hit and India went 2-1 up.

Thereafter, the Indians forced most of the moves, but further success eluded them as they wasted their third penalty-corner as Dilip Tirkey's shot was easily parried.

On the counter-attack, Austria penetrated a slow-moving Indian defence and forced two back-to-back penalty corners. Goalkeeper Baljit Singh blocked the first attempt from Minar, but the Austrian specialist came good with his next try, again a direct hit.

At this stage, the drag-flick specialist V Ramachandra Raghunath came off the bench, but India did not get another penalty-corner as the teams went into half-time on level terms.

On resumption, India showed urgency and kept Austria under pressure and took 3-2 lead in 42nd minute. Xalco's long hit into circle came off goalkeeper's pads. Ignace Tirkey gained possession, did a half-turn and let fly a reverse hit to the net.

India then took stranglehold of the match with a four-goal blitz in as many minutes. Shivendra picked up a waist-high rebound and swatted home for the fourth goal in the 51st minute, Chhikara made it 5-2 with a reverse hit after Shivendra set him up in the 53rd, before Sardara schemed two goals for Rajpal (6-2) and Shivendra (7-2) to score in the 53rd and 55th minutes, respectively.

With a five-goal cushion, India relaxed for just a moment and Austria in a trice forced their sixth penalty-corner that Minar converted in the 59th minute. Thereafter, the match meandered into an up and down affair and the Indians came away with palpable relief.


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Title: Santiago: India Crush Austria in Olympic Hockey Qualifier

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