- Hosts start with impressive 4-0 win against South Africa
- Malaysia and Canada bounce back from heavy opening defeats
- Pakistan score in last second to draw with rivals India
Gold Coast, Australia: Hosts Australia opened the defence of their Commonwealth Games title with a comprehensive 4-0 win against South Africa in day three of the men’s hockey event at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Malaysia and Canada bounced back from heavy opening day defeats while India and Pakistan played out a hugely entertaining game in front of yet another bumper crowd at the Gold Coast Hockey Centre.
In the all-Asian clash, Indian youngster Dilpreet Singh opened the scoring in the 12th minute after a well-worked passage of play. Penalty corner specialist Harmanpreet Singh then doubled India’s lead with a trademark drag flick after 19 minutes.
Whilst not long ago Pakistan may have struggled to recover from such a deficit against their long-term rivals, new Head Coach Roelant Oltmans inspired his team throughout.
Their resilience was rewarded early in the second half when Muhammad Ifran Jr tapped in a nice counter-attacking movement, and from there Pakistan had all the momentum.
India looked as though they had done enough to take the win as they went into the last minute of the game but Pakistan had other ideas. Following a Video Umpire referral, Pakistan’s 20-year-old Ali Mubashar stepped up and rocketed a drag flick into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal.
This not only earned his country a vital point, but is surely a huge confidence boost for Pakistan who lost 7-1 then 6-1 to India in the Hero Hockey World League Semi-Final in London less than 10 months ago.
Following the match, Pakistan midfielder Muhammed Rizwan said: “To come back from 2-0 is a team effort. It’s a learning process, as there are lots of new guys, and we’ve only been with our coach for two-and-a-half weeks.”
After that excitement, hosts Australia got their title defence underway and did not disappoint thousands of local fans who had turned out to cheer them on.
Australia’s Kookaburras dominated this match, with Trent Mitton scoring two and Jeremy Hayward and Aaron Kleinschmidt also getting on the scoreboard.
Mitton was clinical for Australia, opening the scoring in the 29th minute with a ‘through-the-legs’ goal seconds before half-time. He then followed this up by doubling Australia’s lead in the 38th minute with a well-timed shot past South African goalkeeper Gowan Jones.
Jeremy Hayward joined in on the action late in the game with a powerful flick from a penalty corner in the 42nd minute.
Mitton then turned provider as he delivered the perfect assist to Kleinschmidt who was able to push the ball into the back of the net and round off Australia’s scoring in the 49th minute.
Afterwards Australian captain Mark Knowles said: “There was a bit of anxiousness, excitement and over play in our first match. I’m really proud that we stuck at it and opened up the game in the second half.”
Earlier in the day Malaysia recovered from a disappointing 7-0 defeat to England to beat Wales.
Fitri Saari’s penalty flick gave the Malaysians the lead in the 19th minute, before goals from Joel van Huizen and Saari’s brother Faizal Saari cemented their 3-0 victory that keeps their hopes of Semi-Final qualification alive.
Afterwards, Malaysia captain Sukri Mutalib said: “I’m happy with how my teammates reacted today after we lost against England. We go into the next game against India with much more confidence. We know India have their strengths, but so do we.”
In the day’s second match, Canada ground out a 1-0 win against a resolute Scotland thanks to a Matthew Sarmento penalty corner in the 12th minute.
The Canadians had suffered a heavy 6-2 loss to New Zealand, but Canada’s experienced goalkeeper David Carter produced a world-class performance to keep the Scots at bay and his team’s Semi-Final ambitions intact.
Matches in both the women’s and men’s hockey events at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games will be taking place until 14 April. For the full event schedule, click here.
The men’s hockey event at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games is one of the last major international events before the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018 taking place in India between 28 November and 16 December. For more information about that event, click here.
For Gold Coast 2018 hockey tickets, click here.
Images : World Sport Pics | Grant Treeby