When Indian skipper and goalkeeper walked towards the team huddle after being beaten by Jeremy Edwards in the fifth and final penalty shoot-out that handed Australia their 15th Champions Trophy title, he would have been wondering whether his team could ever break the Aussie hoodoo that had denied them time and again in the final.
The Indians have now lost 14 of the 15 finals they have played against Australia and this is the closest they have come to upset the Kangaroos in the last few years.
They created over half a dozen chances in the last 10 minutes and with a little luck on their side, would have triumphed over the defending champions in regulation time. But the ball refused to get into the net and Tyler Lovell stood tall to deny Sardar Singh, Harmanpreet Singh and Lalit Upadhyay to lift their seventh title in the last eight editions of the tournament.
Aran Zalewski, Daniel Beale and Edwards scored for the Australians to hand them a 3-1 win in the shoot out after the match had ended 1-1 in regulation time.
But for the penalty shootout, the Indians were the better side in the 60 minutes of regulation play as they aimed to avenge the team’s loss in the summit clash two years ago, also through penalty shootout.
There was not much to choose for in the initial exchanges before the Indians began to push forward. They earned two penalty corners but Manpreet Singh’s injections on both occasions did not even reach the stopper.
India’s best chance of the quarter came when a rebound off Dilpreet’s shot fell in front of SV Sunil but the striker could not trap the ball well.
The 29-year-old got another chance to give India the lead within a minute of restart when Simranjeet Singh found him with a defence splitting pass but Jake Harvie managed to put his stick in line of the shot in time to deflect it for a corner.
Australia’s first clear chance came through an error from the Indian defence, which failed to intercept a cross from the right but PR Sreejesh thwarted Blake Govers only to concede their first penalty corner.
And Govers benefitted by an uncharacteristic error as he tried to push the ball wide while stopping the drag flick but only ended up deflecting it inside the goal.
And the defending champions could have doubled the lead a minute from half time when the defence once again went to sleep and Aran Zalewski had an easy shot on goal but this time Sreejesh was alert to the threat.
The Indians came out all guns blazing in the third quarter and created almost half a dozen chances in the next 15 minutes.
Mandeep Singh was first denied by the goal post after his diving push on the rebound beat Australian goalkeeper Tyler Lovell. Four minutes later Manpreet Singh’s shot following a free hit was saved but Vivek Prasad capitalised on the quick passing from the ensuing long corner to equalise.
Mandeep almost put India ahead in the 45th minute as he pounced on a weak clearance by the Australian defence but Lovell managed to get his stick down on time to save the day.
Manpreet could have bagged the gold medal for India had he managed to get a touch on the ball few inches from the goal after Sunil made a darting run from the right and Mandeep Singh deflected the ball across the goal mouth.
Netherlands bag bronze
Earlier, hosts Netherlands defeated Olympic champions Argentina 2-0 to clinch the bronze medal.
With both the teams unable to breach the opposition defence in the first three quarters, the Dutch finally scored both the goals through penalty corners. Jeroen Hertzberger finding the net in the 47th minute and then Mirco Pruijser completing the tally seven minutes later.