Johor (Malaysia), Oct. 29: The Indian junior men's hockey team put in a fine display on a nervy evening against Australia, to win the 10th Sultan of Johor Cup after a tense penalty shootout.
The two teams were tied at 1-1 in regulation time, following which 9 penalty shots were needed to decide the winner. India edged the shootout 5-4 and won their third Sultan of Johor Cup title.
It was India with the first pushback of the Final, after which both sides looked to play at a high tempo, with Mohith Shashikumar pulling off a fine save early on. Australia controlled proceedings in the early exchanges while Captain Uttam Singh and Boby Singh Dhami tried to push India forward.
The efforts paid off as India broke the deadlock through Sudeep Chirmako (14'). India went into the first break leading 1-0, much to the joy of fans at the stadium.
Looking to build on the lead in the second quarter, India began on the front foot, with most of the contest being played in Australia's half. As the quarter progressed, Australia's hunt for the equaliser intensified, and even though India were absorbing the pressure well, Jack Holland (29') scored. India and Australia went into the half-time break with the score reading 1-1.
Both sides came back out for the second half with a cautious approach, understandably not keen to allow the opponent any space. Midway through the quarter, India almost edged ahead with Sudeep Chirmako, but neither side were able to outsmart the other, as the quarter ended with the score at 1-1.
In the final quarter, which was played in the presence of the Sultan of Johor, both India and Australia turned up the heat by a few notches, making it a very entertaining phase in the game. However, as the final six minutes began, the score still read 1-1.
Both sides gave it their all, but weren't able to find the winner in regulation time, as the Final went into a penalty shootout.
In the shootout, it was Australia who had first crack with Cooper Burns but Mohith Shashikumar kept him out. India started off with Vishnukant Singh, who calmly lifted it over the keeper and into the back of the net. Liam Hart brought scored Australia's first goal in the shootout, after which Sudeep Chirmako shot wide, and the tie-breaker was locked at 1-1 after the first two shots.
Mohith Shashikumar foiled Jayden Atkinson's attempt, before Captain Uttam Singh won a penalty stroke, which Sharda Nand Tiwari promptly put away, giving India a 2-1 lead. Up next for Australia was Joshua Brooks and he made it 2-2, but Boby Singh Dhami could not put India ahead. Australia won a penalty stroke off the next attempt as Brodee Foster was checked by the keeper and Joshua Brooks put away without much ado. Ankit Pal walked up to the spot next for India, and he equalised, to make it 3-3, taking the game into sudden death.
In sudden death, Vishnukant Singh stepped up for India, but he missed, after which Liam Hart was denied by the post. Captain Uttam Singh gave India a 4-3 lead with the next attempt, and Cooper Burns made it 4-4.
Boby Singh Dhami cut a disappointed figure on missing his attempt, before Brodee Foster put it wide, and the two teams remained tied at 4-4 in what was turning out to be a dramatic finish. Sudeep Chirmako held his nerve and made it 5-4 and Joshua Brooks' miss after that meant India won their third Sultan of Johor Cup title.
The top-scorer at the 10th Sultan of Johor Cup was India's Sharda Nand Tiwari with 7 goals to his name, and the Player of the Match in the Final against Australia was Sudeep Chirmako.
Source: Hockey India