India redeemed some pride with an improved performance in their last league match as they thrashed Australia 4-2 and is now set to compete for the third-place in the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey tournament.
The result was unanticipated as the Kookaburras entered the match having sealed the final berth on the back of their four victories in as many games, while India garnered just four points with one scrappy win against lowly Canada and a draw in their four games.
However, everything was put to rest after the referees blew the first whistle. India dominated right from the start scoring in the very first minute via the penalty corner. The Aussies pulled it back with Daniel Beales’ effort to close the first half with one each. Thereafter, it was just Nikkin Thimmaiah’s show. The forward scored a hat-trick as India avenged their 1-2 loss against the same opponents in FIH Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar in December.
India did everything right today. Their lackluster defence stood up on this occasion against a swift Australian attack. The goalkeeper combined with the “suicide runners” denied the Aussies multiple times in penalty corners. Sardar Singh was at his best as the playmaker and the man of the match Thimmaiah was phenomenal with the finishing, an area where India struggled throughout the tournament. The best aspect of the win were the quick counter-attacks the Indian team came up with ensuring the attacking periods by Australian frontline were short-lived and not once allowing them to dictate the terms.
The win will give the new head coach Paul Van Ass a sigh of relief having got his first major success in his maiden assignment while Australians will look to forget this day before their final.