Four sublimely worked goals have given the Kookaburras a narrow 4-3 win over India in a frenetic FIH Pro League match at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar tonight.
Up 2-0 at half time courtesy of Dylan Wotherspoon and Tom Wickham, two third quarter goals in quick succession from Lachlan Sharp and Jacob Anderson proved enough to maintain the Kookaburras’ impressive record in the subcontinent and hold off an Indian side that stormed home in the final 15 minutes.
Against an India side who had taken the scalp of the Netherlands and Belgium in the past month, it took just six minutes for the Kookaburras to silence the home crowd when they produced a clinical counter attack to open the scoring.
Aran Zalewski fed the ball to Sharp on the left side of the attacking circle, who in turn sent a first time pass across to Wotherspoon who was perfectly positioned to tuck the ball past Indian goalkeeper Krishan Pathak.
The lead was doubled in the 18th minute following another quality build. This time Sharp laid the ball off to Eddie Ockenden whose perfectly weighted direct pass saw Wickham calmly help the ball on as he slotted it through the legs of the oncoming Pathak to make it 2-0.
Staunch defending at the other end ensured the Kookaburras held onto their two goal buffer at the main interval.
Corey Weyer forced a save from Pathak before tight marking from Birendra Lakra prevented Wotherspoon from scoring his second as the Kookaburras looked to ram home their advantage, but it was India who struck next.
Despite some desperate defending from Jake Harvie to keep out two Indian penalty corner attempts, at the third time of asking Rupinder Singh thundered his drag flick into the chest of Kookaburras goalkeeper Andrew Charter, the rebound bobbling up for Raj Kumar Pal who bounced it to himself before sending a reverse stick shot into the back of the net.
However, the Kookaburras reaffirmed their ascendency as they struck twice in as many minutes.
Wotherspoon took the ball into the circle for Sharp who had enough space to turn his effort in past an Indian defender and goalkeeper, before Anderson made it 4-1 as Daniel Beale’s presence created just enough of a distraction for the young striker’s shot to go through unaided.
But just as the Kookaburras looked home and hosed, Raj produced a pinpoint long range shot inside the first 30 seconds of the last quarter to make it 4-2 to give the home side a lifeline.
Then when an unstoppable Rupinder Singh drag flick made it 4-3 with eight minutes remaining, suddenly it was game on and India were sensing a remarkable comeback.
In a tense finish, India sacrificed their keeper for the final 2 minutes in search of an equaliser, but the Kookaburras held firm to take a psychological edge into tomorrow night’s second match.
India 3 (Kumar Pal 36’/47’, R.Singh 52’)
Kookaburras 4 (Wotherspoon 6’, Wickham 18’, Sharp 41’, Anderson 42’)
@ Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar
Kookaburras: 1.Lachlan Sharp, 3.Corey Weyer, 4.Jake Harvie, 5.Tom Wickham, 6.Matthew Dawson, 9.Jacob Anderson, 10.Josh Beltz, 11.Eddie Ockenden, 12.Jake Whetton, 16.Tim Howard, 17.Aran Zalewski (c), 18.Kurt Lovett, 23.Daniel Beale, 25.Trent Mitton, 26.Dylan Wotherspoon, 30.Andrew Charter (gk), 32.Jeremy Hayward
Unused Substitute: 24.Tyler Lovell (gk)
India: 2.Dilpreet Singh, 3.Rupinder Singh, 6.Surender Kumar, 7.Manpreet Singh (c), 8.Hardik Singh, 10.Simranjeet Singh, 12.Krishan Pathak (gk), 13.Harmanpreet Singh, 14.Lalit Upadhyay, 23.Gurinder Singh, 24.Sunil Sowmarpet, 26.Birendra Lakra, 27.Akashdeep Singh, 30.Amit Rohidas, 32.Vivek Prasad, 69.Raj Kumar Pal, 71.Gursahibjit Singh
Unused substitute: 16.Sreejesh Parattu (gk)
Kookaburras v India – FIH Pro League 2020 Match Details
Match 2 – Saturday 22 February 2020
Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar
Start Time: 7:00pm local (12:30am AEDT Sunday 23 February)
Click here for a full list of the Kookaburras FIH Pro League 2020 fixtures.