Defending champions Australia were off to a winning start with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Ireland in their opening Hockey World Cup Pool B match in Bhuvneshwar on Friday.
Facing a team ranked nine places below them, the Kookaburras were expected to walk through but were put to a great test against a resilient Ireland side. Australia are aiming to become the first country to win three successive World Cup titles.
But it was Ireland, who began well, pushing Australia back into its own half. By the end of the third minute, they had two shots, one from each flank. Australia, on the other, earned the first penalty corner in the 11th minute. Blake Govers was not successful with his first attempt but his flick earned another penalty corner and Govers this time made no mistake.
Ireland, however, showed no sign of any inexperience in their first World Cup game after 28 years. They had already forced Australia goalkeeper Andrew Charter into a double save in the third minute and two minutes after conceding, they equalised. Sean Murray’s ball that penetrated through the Australian defence was put into the net by Shane O’Donoghue, to bring his side level on scores.
Australia gained some momentum in the second quarter and won two consecutive penalty corners but failed to convert both with Ireland custodian Dylan Wotherspoon pulling up a good save. But Australia would not be denied another goal and they deservedly took the lead in the 33rd minute.
Govers found Timothy Brand in space and although the forward’s initial shot was saved, he was at hand to score from the rebound and put Australia ahead.
Ireland continued to threaten in search of the equaliser but missed chances meant Australia clanged to the same scoreline.
In the other match of Pool B, England and China played out an entertaining 2-2 draw.