Australia

Penalty stroke save sends Kookaburras into World Cup semi-final

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Australia has edged a seven-goal thriller against Spain to reach the semi-finals of hockey’s World Cup.

Trailing by two goals on the brink of half-time the Kookaburras scored four goals in less than seven minutes either side of the break to transform Tuesday’s tie in the Indian city of Bhubaneswar.

But Spain battled back and the world’s No.1-ranked team needed a late penalty stroke save by goalkeeper Andrew Charter to hold on to a 4-3 win.

Australia must now wait to see whether it faces England or Germany, who meet in Wednesday’s quarter-final, in the semi-final on Friday (10pm AEDT).

“Being two goals down made it really hard for us. It really tested our mettle and we are proud to come away with the win,” said Charter, who was named man of the match.

Of his penalty save he added: “I was just trying to calm the nerves down, take a couple of deep breaths, trying to grab the way he was going. I picked the right way, so I’m happy.”

Spain was unexpected opponents. Third in its group behind England and India, Spain had defeated Malaysia in a shootout in the crossover round.

But while ranked eighth in the world it had beaten Australia twice in the past five meetings and held the Kookaburras in the Tokyo Olympics.

Nevertheless, Australia dominated the opening exchanges, forcing three penalty corners without success.

In the second quarter Spain stunned Colin Batch’s team with two quick goals.

After 19 minutes the ball was worked to Xavier Gispert, who drove into the D before unleashing a superb reverse stick shot low into the far corner.

Four minutes later, Australia having failed with another penalty corner, Spain scored again.

Pepe Cunill dribbled in from the right and his cross, via a couple of deflections, reached Marc Rescasens, who swept it past Charter.

Spain should have gone into the half-time break 3-0 up after Enrique Gonzales, showing skilful stickplay on the wing, fizzed a ball across the goal in the final minute of the period. From less than a yard out two strikers were unable to apply the finishing touch.

Instead the Kookaburras were able to halve the deficit with five seconds left.

Flynn Ogilvie took a crossfield pass from Matt Dawson and cracked the ball inside the near post.

The breakthrough transformed the tie, as six minutes into the third quarter Australia were 4-2 up.

Jake Whetton was allowed to drive in along the touchline before crossing for Aran Zalewski to score. Jeremy Hayward then converted two short corners, taking his tournament goal tally to seven.

Spain did not give up. Charter twice saved penalty corners but at the third attempt was beaten by Marc Miralles.

With less than five minutes left Lachlan Sharp received a green card, forcing him off for two minutes.

Spain quickly won a penalty stroke conceded by Zalewski’s stick tackle. Charter, however, guessed right to deny Miralles and take Australia’s into the semi-finals for the 12th successive World Cup.

-AAP



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