India’s junior men’s hockey team started off their 8-Nations U-21 Invitational campaign with a 4-0 loss to Australia in their Group B encounter in Madrid on Monday.

The first period was a tightly fought one with both teams matching each other toe to toe. Despite both creating a host of half chances, a few fell clear and they went into the break locked in a stalemate.

The second quarter followed a pattern where India were happy to play on the counter, and pressed Australia regularly. In a somewhat ill-tempered quarter, Australia’s Dylan Martin was awarded the first green card of the game, giving India a man advantage.

The team though couldn’t make it count, and soon had a man of their own penalised, Maninder Singh shown a green card for an illegal intervention on the goal line. From the ensuing penalty stroke, Australia took the lead, Nathan Ephraums scoring to give them the lead in the 25th minute. They took the single goal lead into half time.

Despite a fight back by India in the period after halftime, Australia consolidated the lead halfway through the third quarter with Ephraums scoring in the 44th with another penalty stroke to double the lead.

India were forced to throw everything forward in the final quarter, and they did so with aggression. The team won a penalty corner within the opening minutes of the quarter but Cade Banditt in the Australian goal, parried to keep India at bay. With India forced into attack, Australia exploited the spaces, Liam Hart (53’) and Ehren Hazell (60’) scoring to ensure their victory.

In Baranovichi (Belarus), India’s Junior Women’s Hockey team beat Belarus Jr. Women’s team 4-1 in their encounter today.

The game started at a frenetic pace, with both teams keen to press their advantage right from the hooter. Within the first few minutes, India had their first penalty corner of the game, and from the ensuing drag flick, Reet made no mistake, converting to give India the lead. Belarus kept up the pressure though and scored an equaliser right at the death to go into the break level with a goal apiece.

India hit back at the beginning of the second quarter with a vengeance and a long period of pressure yielded the goal they were looking for with Sharmila Devi scoring to give India the lead. The team held on to the slender 2-1 lead as they went into halftime.

Belarus were quicker off the blocks in the third quarter, and had a penalty corner minutes into the period. The ensuing attempt on goal though was denied by a rigid Indian defence. The game evened up in tempo after that and India dominated most of the remainder of the period. They had a succession of PCs through the quarter, and off the third Reet scored her second to extend India’s lead. The teams went into the break with India leading 3-1.

India kept up the pressure in the final period and did not take their foot off the gas at all. Constantly attacking and probing they kept putting the Belarusian defence in trouble, winning PCs regularly through the quarter. Right at the end of the game, Reet scored from a penalty stroke, bagging a hat-trick and giving India a much deserved 4-1 victory.