| Pillay joins the celebration in the stands at the Sydney international stadium Sunday. (Reuters)
Sydney: Avenging their last week’s final loss against Australia in Perth, India thrashed the hosts 5-3 on Sunday to win the second leg of the three-nation invitational hockey tournament.
In the final played before a packed house at the Sydney International Hockey Stadium, India scored through Jugraj Singh (30th minute), Gagan Ajit Singh (31), Prabhjot Singh (38 and 64) and Baljit Singh Dhillon (66) to finish their 12-day tour of Australia on a high note.
Though Troy Alder scored a hattrick (45, 55, 70) for Australia, it was not enough to prevent India from registering their first win against the hosts on the tour.
“This is a great finish to our tour. I am absolutely thrilled with the way the boys played today,” said an elated Indian coach Rajinder Singh. He also added that the twin tournaments would start India’s build-up to the Champions Trophy in August and next year’s Athens Olympic Games.
“This is a big impetus for us for future tournaments particularly the Champions Trophy and next year’s Athens Olympics. We would like to continue in the same vein,” he said.
The visitors, keen to give the Australians a taste of their own medicine after narrowly losing the first leg final 1-2 last week, started on a positive note, putting pressure on the opposition at regular intervals.
The three strikers — skipper Dhanraj Pillay, Prabhjot and Dhillon — put up a disciplined performance to create opportunities but failed to convert any of them till the 30th minute as the rival defenders successfully thwarted all their moves.
India broke the deadlock when Jugraj converted a penalty corner and soon after, Gagan Ajit scored a brilliant field goal to make the score 2-0.
Pillay and Dhillon set the stage with some brilliant stickwork which Gagan Ajit utilised fully much to the delight of the Indians fans.
India, who went to the interval leading 2-0, extended their lead further when Prabhjot scored the first of his two goals in the 38th minute.
India, however, met with some intense pressure from Australia thereafter, as they made frenetic efforts to get back into the match.
With 25 minutes remaining, Alder converted a penalty corner, leading his team’s bid to stage a recovery.
Alder again sounded the board 10 minutes later — this time dodging the Indian defenders for a field goal — as Australia started keeping constant pressure on the Indian backline.
However, veteran goalkeeper Devesh Chouhan, coming up with yet another brilliant display on the tour, denied the rivals at least on four occasions.
However, India dealt the hosts’ hopes a body blow when Prabhjot and Dhillon slotted home within a space of two minutes to catapult the team to take a three-goal lead.
The double-strikes in the 64th and 66th minutes put the issue beyond the hosts, despite Alder’s last-minute conversion of a penalty corner to complete his hattrick, which remained the only consolation for the home team.
The 3500-odd crowd gave the winners a standing ovation as the team took the lap of honour.
Later, the Australian skipper Brent Livermore praised the Indian team. “We played some good hockey throughout the competition, but today they were the better team. The Indians are a good opposition,” he said.
Pillay later received the winning trophy from the Hockey Australia president Pam Tye.
Another loss for Pak
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s woes continued as they crashed to a 2-5 defeat against Australia A in an earlier match.
After taking the lead through Ben Bishop in the first minute of the match, Australia A scored four goals in the second half as the visitors suffered their second defeat in the second-leg.
Australian second-stringers scored twice within two minutes into the second half through Lucas Judge and Grant Schubert while Nathan Eglington sounded the board in the 52nd minute. Eleven minutes later, Tristram Woodhouse scored the fifth goal.
For Pakistan, Rehan Butt (24) and Shakeel Abbasi (53) were able to find the target.