Lucknow: Manpreet made the run towards the left, turned back and fired in the reverse-stick to put India 4-2 up in the shootout, and into the Junior Hockey World Cup final. India and Australia were locked at 2-2 after 70 minutes of high-quality hockey and the result was decided by shootout, which India won in fine fashion.
All Indian takers – Sumit, Harmanpreet, Manpreet, Harjeet – found the back of the net and Vikas Dahiya was exceptional in front of the goal. The Indian goalie stayed calm under pressure and allowed the Aussies to score only two goals. Manpreet’s goal triggered celebrations in the stands and in the Indian camp. The hosts entered the final of the tournament after a long gap of 15 years, and will now take on Belgium, who also won their match against Germany in shootout, in the title clash on Sunday.
Australia were the dominant side in the first period of play and they did what they have successfully done in the tournament so far – take lead at the half-way mark. Tom Craig’s goal – his first and tournament’s 150th – put the Aussies ahead in the 14th minute and the stadium was reduced to silence early in the contest.
Like the Spain match, where India conceded the early goal and staged a comeback, the crowd found its voice back when India fired two goals in the space of six minutes to take the lead. Gurjant Singh levelled the scoring with an excellent field goal before Mandeep Singh’s one-two in the circle put India ahead in the 48th minute.
The crowd was behind the hosts and Australia were feeling the heat. They, however, were up for the fight and kept making sharp runs into the scoring circle. Lachlan Sharp’s sharp deflection finally levelled the scoring for them, with just 13 minutes left on the clock.
Both teams charged forward in search of the winning goal in the remaining period of play but none could. The match went into shootout and India remained calm under pressure to register an emphatic 4-2 win over a formidable Australian unit. This win would do a world of good to India’s confidence as they now take on a rising Belgium unit, which stunned Germany earlier in the day.