Azlan Shah hockey: Aus beat India 4-1 | india | Hindustan Times
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Azlan Shah hockey: Aus beat India 4-1

This tournament is significant as it comes less than three months before World Cup to be played in Germany.

india Updated: Jun 18, 2006 17:24 IST

Thrice winners India went down to defending champions Australia 1-4 in their opening rain-affected Pool A match of the 15th Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament here Sunday.

Olympic champions and favourites Australia, looking to complete a hat-trick of titles in this eight-nation competition, led 1-0 at half-time. They completely dominated the proceedings, leaving the Indians gasping at the Bukit Jalil Stadium.

Even the rains that forced a stoppage in the second half could not prevent the world's No. 1 team from slamming three more goals against the world's No. 6 ranked side.

For Australia, experienced Troy Elder (7th minute), Matt Naylor (11th and 41st) and Luke Doerner (62nd) were the scorers, while Tejbir Singh (22nd) reduced the margin.

India's next match is against hosts Malaysia Monday.

Earlier Sunday, New Zealand rallied to beat Argentina 3-2 in the tournament opener.

This tournament has assumed significance as it comes less than three months before the World Cup, to be played in Germany Sep 6-17.

Seven of the eight teams that will compete in the World Cup are playing in this meet. Germany is not fielding a side for the Sultan Azlan Shah trophy.

Although Dilip Tirkey's team lost to Brent Livermore's Australian side, it the eight-time Olympic gold medallists India that had the first real opportunity to score.

The hard working Arjun Halappa tried to shoot from the hand-shaking distance with the Australian goalkeeper Stephen Lambert. He missed the target, but outside right Rajpal Singh threw himself on to turf to deflect the ball into the goal from the left, only to fail to connect.

Soon after Elder collected a neat pass inside the 'D' and split open the Indian deep defence manned by a host of players before shooting the ball into the goal.

Within minutes of this goal, Australia, playing fine one-touch hockey, increased the lead when Naylor took advantage of a vast open space inside the 'D' and made it 2-0.

Australians were far too speedy for the Indians' comfort and they combined well also. They never kept the ball with themselves for long and passed it on to their teammates at the first opportunity.

The Kangaroos' persistent pressure earned them two successive penalty corners, but both were averted.

Soon, India also forced a short corner and penalty corner specialist Sandeep Singh took a hit that was blocked by an onrushing defender. But following a small melee inside the striking circle, Tejbir got hold of the ball and cracked it from a difficult angle on the left.

Australia maintained their dominance in the second half too. But a few minutes into the second half, heavy rains forced the players off the field.

And even when they returned after a while, there was no change in the pattern of play.

In the 41st minute, Naylor virtually put the issue beyond doubt with Australia's third goal.

And eight minutes from the close, Dorner completed the tally when he scored off a set piece, sending his rasping drive between the legs of goalkeeper Bharat Chettri.

Moments after this goal India made a few futile attempts to score one or two face-saving goals.

Striker Gagan Ajit Singh received a ball in a difficult position right in front of the goal, but the custodian did not allow him to take the reverse flick.

In the dying minutes, Halappa also got an opportunity to reduce the margin, but he pushed the ball into the side netting of the goal from almost zero degree.

India, taking part in the tournament for the 11th time, had emerged victorious in 1985, 1991 and 1995, and finished third in 1983 and 2000.

India, Australia, who won the title in 2004 and 2005, Malaysia and one-time champion South Korea are in Pool A, while Pool B has thrice winners Pakistan, the Netherlands, Argentina and New Zealand.

After round robin matches the top two teams from both pools will advance to the semi-finals, followed by the final June 25.

The Azlan Shah tournament was launched in 1983 as a biennial contest that became an annual event after 1998 following its growth and popularity.