Ipoh: A resolute India rallied to hold world and Olympic champion Australia to a 1-1 draw, riding on Adrian D`Souza`s brilliant goalkeeping in their Sultan Azlan Shah Cup match on Sunday.
India`s defence showed frayed nerves throughout the encounter but the defending champions managed to emerge with a 1-1 draw. Jacob Whetton (14th minute) and Rupinder Pal Singh (22nd minute) were the ones who hit on target in the exciting match.
The Indian defence allowed Australia to dominate the game, conceding two soft penalty corners and repeatedly gave away the ball to the Australian strikers, but D`Souza played an outstanding game to keep the rivals at bay.
The 1-1 score-line will give satisfaction to the Indians, coming in the first encounter with Australia after the 8-0 drubbing in the final of the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi seven months ago.
Like India, the Australian lineup was also without half a dozen players from the senior squad, but the Aussies set the pace in the game and maintained complete domination in the initial 15 minutes of play, when India just managed to make
one foray into the rival territory.
India`s fumbling defence seemed to create pressure on themselves, but they still hung on grimly to keep the score level and were aided by the wayward shooting of the Australian strikers.
A weak clearance by Rupinder Pal Singh saw the Indian goal come under pressure in the third minute, but he managed to recover ground to deflect out Glenn Turner`s feeble shot.
Three minutes later, D`Souza padded a Jason Wilson shot past the jittery defence.
Australia forced their first penalty corner in the ninth minute, but fumbled in the set-piece attempt.
The Indian goal again came under pressure in the 13th minute following deep defender Dhananjay Mahadik`s mis-pass, but Australian striker Turner failed to capitalise on a clear opening.
The sustained pressure earned Australia the lead in the 14th minute when Jacob Whetton sent a firm drive into the boards moving across from the right wing.
India first had a look at the rival goal in the 19th minute, when Shivendra Singh found himself in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper, but his feeble shot was easily cleared.
India equalised on their maiden penalty corner in the 22nd minute, which was awarded for Jonathan Charlesworth`s foul on Ravipal Singh to stop him form breaking into the scoring zone.
Rupinder Pal Singh continued his fine show, following up his hat-trick against Britain with a fine grounded drag-flick that beat the goalkeeper to sound the boards and injected life into the Indian side.
Not able to make good clearances, the Indian defenders conceded two penalty corners in the space of four minutes, but D`Souza defended stoutly to pad away the balls, once anticipating the set-piece to thwart the pass back to striker who came in from the goalline.
India had another opening in the 31st minute, but Shivendra failed to capitalise on Rishan Minz`s cross from right.
In the second session, the Indians broke through a few times, and even saw Gurvinder Singh Chandi failing to hit a sitter in the 60th minute as the ball drifted across the goalmouth.
Australia forced two more penalty corners in the second session, the last one in the 65th minute when Rupinder was sent off for a foul, but they failed to get past goalkeeper D`Souza.
India`s poor trapping and clearance continued in the second half. Captain Arjun Halappa, playing deep inside India`s own half, fumbled in receiving a pass when standing along on top of the circle to concede a penalty corner in the 39th minute.
Halappa was shown the green card in the 42nd minute when pointing something out to the umpire.
It was not just the Indians` defence that was fumbling. The two umpires were often signaling fouls in different directions at the same time. The umpiring drew criticism from both coaches.
Australia got a clear look at the Indian goal in the 50th minute when Turner picked up a misdirected pass between Indian defenders and squared the ball to Jason Wilson who shot wide with only the goalkeeper in front.
India played the last five minutes with 10 men, and packed the scoring zone to deny space to the Australian strikers.