Melbourne, Nov 23: Despite drag-flick specialist Rupinder Pal Singh scoring twice, India went down fighting 2-3 against Australia in a tense finish at the Four Nations Invitational Hockey Tournament here on Wednesday (November 23).
Rupinder Pal Singh converted two penalty corners in the 21st and 53rd minutes but Australia emerged winners with goals from Jeremy Hayward (24th and 36th) and Trent Mitton (43rd).
The Indian side began positively against the top-ranked Australia, showing positive intent and energy in the first quarter as they looked to better their record against their opponents.
However, the first 15 minutes ended with a 0-0 score line as both teams kept searching for goal-scoring opportunities. Indian youngster Affan Yousuf's attacking approach almost paid dividends early on had it not been for a solid defence from the Kookaburras.
A high-voltage encounter in the offing, India, who had recently won the Asian Champions Trophy in Malaysia, managed to gain three successive penalty corners in the second quarter of the match.
The team's bankable drag-flicker, Rupinder missed out on the first two opportunities, but did not disappoint the third time around as his powerful and precise hit went past Australian goalkeeper Tristan Clemons in the 21st minute to give India the lead.
However, the drama intensified as Hayward scored the equaliser three minutes later, using his drag-flicking skills to beat a diving Akash Chikte. At half-time, the game was beautifully poised at 1-1.
India had a tough time in the third quarter as the Australians scored two more goals to take the lead to 3-1. Hayward scored his second penalty corner goal in the 36th minute and Mitton scored his team's third off a difficult angle in the 43rd minute.
However, the Indians did not give up easily as they entered the final quarter. Talwinder Singh lifted the spirits in the camp with a superb counter-attacking approach initially and then it was goalkeeper Chikte's miraculous save of a powerful hit from Dylan Wotherspoon.
Rupinder brought India back in the game with a successful penalty corner conversion in the 53rd minute as India headed into the tense last minutes of the match.
However, the Australians denied India any further chance to score an equaliser as the visitors conceded a 2-3 defeat.