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Last-minute goal helps Australia down Belgium in title clash


Antwerp (Belgium):  Chris Ciriello sent a low drag-flick into the right corner of the goal in the dying seconds as world champion Australia defeated host Belgium 1-0 to win Hockey World League Semifinals at the KHC Dragons Stadium here.

The title encounter seemed headed for penalty shoot-out yesterday before Australia earned two successive penalty corners in the last 25 seconds, and Ciriello finally found the target by placing the shot wide of the Belgian goalkeeper’s reach.

It was a heart-breaking moment for the partisan crowd and Belgian goalkeeper Jeremy Gucassoff, who played a gallant game today to thwart repeated raids by the Australian strikers.

World No 1 Australia laid siege on the Belgian citadel in the second half, forcing numerous penalty corners, but the goal eluded them as Belgium defended stoutly.

Goalkeeper Gucassoff frequently dived to the sides and leapt in the air to block goal-bound shots. During this period, Belgium banked on a few breakaway counters that posed some danger at the other end of the pitch.

Australia managed to put the ball into the goal three minutes from the hooter and the umpire blew for goal, but it was reversed as the ball had hit the foot of striker Blake Govers inside the scoring circle.

For a while in the first half, Belgium had an advantage as Australian player Tristan White was shown the yellow card and was off the turf for an extended period.

It became a nine men versus 10 contest when a player of either side were suspended for two minutes owing to a midfield clash, while White was still off the field. But Australia’s strong defence did not allow Belgium to gain any benefit.

Belgium’s best chance came early in the second half when their ace striker Tom Boon flicked just wide from close range.

Earlier, Great Britain claimed the bronze medal by defeating India 5-1 in the third place play-off match.

This was Britain’s biggest ever victory in a hockey international against Indian men, the previous best being the 3-0 win at the Seoul Olympics in a preliminary round match before Britain went on to win the gold medal.

All four semifinalists form this World League Semifinals qualified for the 2016 Olympics Games, with India making the grade as the gold medalists at the Incheon Asian Games.

Malaysia’s effort to boost the Asian challenge at the Olympic Games after Pakistan’s failure was hampered today when Ireland defeated them 4-2 in the play-off for the fifth place.

Ireland enhanced their claim to play in the Olympic hockey competition for the first time in over 100 years. Malaysia, finishing sixth here, now await the countdown after the five continental champions have been decided.

Pakistan suffered another defeat today as France beat them 2-1 in the playoff for the seventh and eighth spots.

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