Rourkela (Odisha) [India], February 24 (ANI): Australia stunned the Indian men's hockey team with a 3-0 shootout win after holding the home team to a 2-2 draw in regulation time in the FIH Hockey Pro League 2023/24 held on Saturday in Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium.

Goals for India came from Harmanpreet Singh (20') and Amit Rohidas (29') while Blake Govers (23') and Tom Craig (53') for Australia. Their goalkeeper Johan Durst, named player of the match, did well to fetch their team the extra point from the shootout, as per a press release from Hockey India.

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Earlier in the game, India overcame a nervy start to build on their attack from the back with a fine tackle by Sumit who has been in solid form. Harmanpreet followed it up with some fancy footwork on the right flank aiding Abhishek in the front. Though this exciting attack did not fetch them a potential shot on goal, experienced Akashdeep earned India's first real chance by winning a PC. Jugraj, however, could not make much of the chance but surely there was plenty of action in the first quarter which also witnessed a fine review being taken by India to ward off a PC threat.

The home team's much-needed lead finally came in the 20th minute when Manpreet Singh's brilliant work on the right flank won India the penalty corner. The India Skipper, in splendid form, went wide first but in a retake nailed it with a fierce drag-flick to the left of Aussie goalkeeper Johan Durst.

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Unfortunately, the massive home crowd's joy was short-lived as Australia didn't take too long to equalise. A forceful tackle from behind in the circle by defender Amit Rohidas gave away a penalty stroke in the 23rd minute. Blake Govers, a master in such situations, made no mistake in beating Sreejesh to find the net.

In the meantime, India's midfield worked hard to pave the way for a second goal. Hardik and Manpreet remained the cynosure in the centre, pushing ahead with pace and vigour. India was eventually able to regain the lead only a minute before the half-time hooter. It was home-grown champ Amit Rohidas who worked his magic bringing loud cheers across the stadium with his perfect dragflick.

The two teams continued to keep the weekend audience in Rourkela on the edge of their seats with top-class action. Even though no goals were scored in the third quarter, the intensity of the game did not drop with the highlight being striker Abhishek's superb reverse hit from the edge of the circle which was impeccably saved by Durst.

With India ahead by a goal, the final quarter was tense. Australia rigorously pushed for a goal with all its might. The visitors piled on the pressure, winning a PC and a stroke but India's defence with goalkeeping ace Sreejesh back in the post did superbly to stay in the lead. Relentless as ever, Australia eventually struck a 2-2 equaliser when Tom Craig scored a fine field goal to push the match into a shootout. Durst did well to ensure that Indian strikers didn't score while the visitors scored 3 goals in the shootout to secure the extra point.

India will next take on Ireland tomorrow at 1930 hrs at the iconic Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium. (ANI)

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