VR Raghunath went from hero to zero as gallant India lost the three-match hockey series against Australia 2-0 in Raipur. Down 1-0 in the series after Sunday’s loss, Akashdeep Singh’s field goal in the dying seconds of Monday’s game helped India win 3-2. The result forced the shootout and Australia emerged the better side, winning by an identical 3-2 scoreline.
Raghunath, who put India in the lead in the 17th minute with his third goal of the series, wasted the all-important stroke in the shootout. The veteran dragflicker looked casual in his approach and his powerful push was well anticipated by Australian goalie Tristan Clemons.
Clemons was Australia’s hero of the night. He denied Indian captain Sardar Singh and Akashdeep Singh in the shootout and although he conceded a stroke by fouling Dharamvir Singh, he slided the right way to wipe the smile off Raghunath’s face.
India needed a two-goal win margin to win the series. The hosts had drawn the first match last week 2-2 but lost on Sunday by the odd goal in three. India conceded late goals in both games and the trend did not change on Monday as well.
Trent Mitton’s 36th minute goal cancelled India’s halftime lead. A dreadful piece of defending by Rupinderpal Singh was enough for Mitton to score a brilliantly composed field goal.
Rupinderpal scores 50th international goal
But five minutes later, the burly Rupinderpal made amends, scoring his 50th international goal to put India ahead 2-1. It was a superb penalty corner conversion as the sheer power and range left the Australian goalie spellbound.
Mitton put his name on the scoresheet again in the 54th minute. Totally unguarded by the Indian defence, Mitton gave the finishing touches after a melee in front of the Indian goalmouth left him with a loose ball to hit in. It was 2-2 and all that Australia needed was to play out time.
But the script did not fold Australia’s way. Much against the run of play, Akashdeep’s first goal of the series in the dying seconds of the match once again left India with a foot in the door. To Akashdeep’s credit, he saw the long ball injected into the Aussie circle and kept his composure to slot home (3-2).
A tense shootout
Daniel Beale gave Australia the lead in the shootout. Sardar, Mitton and Akashdeep wasted their chances and Matt Gowdes made it 2-0. Rupinder scored from the spot after Mohammed Amir won a stroke (1-2). Matthew Swan was denied by Sreejesh and Birendra Lakra made no mistake to make it 2-2.
Chris Ciriello used his experience to give Australia the lead again (3-2) and it stayed that way after Raghunath missed the all-important stroke. The Australians had the last laugh.