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India makes a thrilling entry into final

S. Thyagarajan

Australia authors an emphatic win over New Zealand; S. Africa beats Pakistan

New Delhi: It is difficult to choose the right epithet to convey the mood of exuberance after India made the first entry into the hockey final of the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday.

Before a huge crowd and in a pulsating combat, embellished by some exquisite goals, India edged out England by a sensational verdict of eight goals to seven after the tie-breaker to set up a gold medal clash with Australia on Thursday.

What made the whole exercise to remain etched in the mind for years to come was the grit and determination of the home team to stage a comeback and make good a two goals deficit.

The initial flourish, which brought India into the lead after Saranjit Singh netted, began to in the later stages of the first half.

England used this sluggish phase to level through Ashley Jackson. And, Jackson added one more shortly after the break from a blinding penalty corner hit.

Then Simon Mantell converted another to give England, what at that point, looked an unbeatable lead.

Rarely have we seen the Indians stage such a recovery, which they did on Tuesday. Even as visions popped up of India's quest for gold might vanish in thin air the team staged a historical recovery.

In a spell that eloquently projected India's hockey ethos of fluency, finesse and forward thrusts, Vikram Pillay deflected a long hit by Sandeep Singh into the net.

— Photo: R.V. Moorthy

WORTHY WINNERS:The Indian players celebrate after defeating England in the penalty shootout.

Within minutes came the leveller by Sarvanjit off a pass from Sardar Singh. India had the whip-hand in the extra-time, but two agonising misses by Tushar Khandekar stretched the match into the extra-time.

If this in a nutshell mirrors the sequence of scoring, the report would be incomplete without a tribute to the role of Sardar Singh at the back line, Halappa's charming forward passes, Sandeep Singh's long and accurate drives that sent the rival defenders into a state of panic and the solid work of Vikram Pillay.

And finally, goal-keeper Chetri for that brilliant save from Kirkham in the tie-breaker that eventually tilted the scales in India's favour amidst spontaneous approbation.

India is now assured of a medal, which it did get in 1998 and 2006. In total command from the push off, the Aussies authored an attractive 6-2 success against the Kiwis to make the fourth successive final in the men's hockey competition.

Exemplary in every layer, the ingenuity and improvisations effected by the team were educational.

The margin clearly masks the effort and efficiency of the Kiwis, who made a gallant bid late in the second half to keep the fight alive till the final whistle.

Simon Child symbolised the danger element. It was a pity that his efforts went unrewarded in the end. Steve Edwards and Brad Shaw were the others who were noticeably energetic.

Pace management is Australia's virtue. This element was executed with care. Content with probing till a modicum of rhythm was accomplished, the velocity of the Aussie attack intensified progressively.

With the ubiquitous Jaime Dwyer marshalling forces, the stress on the Kiwi defenders became pronounced, notwithstanding the intrepid display by the goal-keeper, Kyle Pontifex. Some of his saves were a delight to behold.

The Aussies tightened the after Luke Doerner's successive penalty corners failed to fructify.Simon Orchard flung open the doors with a smashing shot. Then the string of goals followed.

Glenn Turner and Jason Wilson enlarged the margin with Abbott adding one more after the break.

The best spell for the Kiwis came when Blair Hilton executed a thundering drive to beat Nathan Burgers at the Aussie goal and Phil Burrows tapped in a cross from the rest.

Pepped up by this turn, the Kiwis forced the pace. But the Aussies neutralised the advantage when Glenn Turner scored a superb diving goal. This was followed by Simon Orchard off a pass from Jaime Dwyer.

Golden goal

Pakistan surrendered a two goal advantage, suffered a red card suspension (Muhammad Irfan from umpire-Greenfield from New Zealand) and conceded the golden goal to tumble down against South Africa to the sixth place. Pakistan was a silver medallist in the last edition while South Africa's best placing-fifth-in 1998 at Kuala Lumpur.

The results:

(9-10): Scotland 7 (Cameron Fraser, Niali Stott, Christopher Nelson, William Marshall, Kenneth Bain 2, Alan Forsyth) bt Trinidad and Tobago 0. 7-8: Canada 3 (Mark Pearson, Iain Smythe, Jesse Watson-golden goal) bt Malaysia 2 (Amin, Hanifi) . (5-6): South Africa 3 (Justin Ross 2, one golden goal, Gareth Carr) bt Pakistan 2 (Rehan Butt).

Semifinals: India 3 (Sarvanjit Singh 2, Vikram Pillay) bt England 3 (Ashley Jackson 2, Simon Mantell). Tie-breaker: India 5 (Sarvanjit Singh, Vikram Pillay, Sandeep Singh, Arjun Halappa, Shivendra Singh). England 4 (Richard Smith, Richard Mantell, Ashley Jackson, Harry Martin). Total 8-7.

Australia 6 (Simon Orchard 2, Glenn Turner 2, Jason Wilson, Desmond Abbott) bt New Zealand 2 (Blair Hilton, Phil Burrows).

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