Roelant Oltmans rued India’s drop in quality after taking the lead against Australia to eventually go down 1-3 on Tuesday at Ipoh, Malaysia in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. For the second game in three matches, India took the lead and conceded to finish without full points. In the first game of the tournament, India led Great Britain twice before having the game finish 2-2. On Tuesday, the result, however, was a loss with Australia scoring thrice.
India took the lead courtesy Harmanpreet Singh in the 26th minute but saw Australia equalise in the 30th courtesy Eddie Ockenden. “The way the match turned had something to do with our non-execution of the game-plan. After we gained the lead, we stopped playing the way we were doing earlier,” said Oltmans. “Until we scored our goal, we played fantastic hockey. After the first two minutes, we controlled the game and had a lot of good attacks. But it started going down after we took the lead,” he added.
Two-time reigning World Cup champions Australia have won the Azlan Shah tournament nine times and are a force to reckon with – something Oltmans acknowledged. “Losing to a very good team is part of the game. We all know that Australia are a very good side,” said Oltmans. “We have matched them in several matches. But in the end, it is not about matching the rivals. It is about winning. Winning is something we still need to learn,” Oltmans asserted.
To add salt to India’s eventual wounds, PR Sreejesh suffered an injury during the first quarter that brought out young Akash Chikte as a substitute. India’s mainstay in goal, Sreejesh, was clattered into by an Australian player while diving for a ball and it resulted in the keeper hobbling off with a knee injury. Oltmans cleared that it is too early to assess the extent of the injury. “It’s a right knee injury. We’re yet to see what exactly it is. We have not gone for X-ray yet. Of course, nobody likes to be injured. There’s no doubt that he’s a fantastic goal-keeper, but his going off the pitch was not the turning point. We got back into the game and we got opportunities,” he said.
The Dutchman also felt India were hard done by with the decisive third goal by Australia. However, he also questioned the team defence. Tom Wickham dribbled past three Indian defenders inside the D, move sideways in front of them, without being tackled. After moving to the goalmouth, Wickham slammed the ball into the goal. “We were a bit unlucky with the last goal. From our point of view, one of the Australian player clearly touched the ball with his foot,” he said. “But that was not the reason for the defenders to stop doing their job.”
India’s chance of qualifying for the final looks tough after an unexpected 2-2 draw with Great Britain in the first game of the tournament.