Surmounts a challenge from a fighting Ireland
World No. 10 Ireland gave the top-ranked Australia a run for its money before the defending champion managed a 2-1 victory in a gripping Pool B match here on Friday.
Australia was relieved to garner full points from its opening engagement after overcoming a stiff resistance from the underdog, which fought with purpose and grit.
Excellent coordination and tireless execution of its plans were hallmarks of the Irish team, which tried to have possession and find holes in the Australian defence.
Ireland nearly took an early lead when Sean Murray and Matthew Nelson’s back-to-back attempts were blocked by an alert Andrew Charter under the bar.
However, it was Australia which drew first blood in the 11th minute. A penalty stroke was converted to penalty corner following a video referral and Blake Govers’ blazing drag-flick disturbed the net.
A confident Ireland soon returned the favour. Murray accurately supplied the ball up and Shane O’Donoghue came from nowhere to slot it in.
Ireland’s man-to-man marking, fine interceptions and promptness to win back the ball forced Australia to work hard.
Corey Weyer’s workmanlike effort to create opportunities helped the Kookaburras in the third quarter and his magnificent through-ball was shot home by Tim Brand, on a second attempt, with a reverse stick.
Though Australia explored more chances, it could not inflict more damage. Ireland took its captain, goalkeeper David Harte, off in closing moments but could not find the equaliser.
“Things will settle down with time, but it’s going to be a difficult tournament,” said Brand. Harte picked the positives. “We will take confidence from our performance,” he said.
The results: Pool B: Australia 2 (Govers 11, Brand 34) bt Ireland 1 (O’Donoghue 13); China 2 (Xiaoping Guo 5, Takale Du 59) drew with England 2 (Mark Gleghorne 14, Liam Ansell 48).