World champions Australia defeated Olympic champions Argentina 2-1 in a hard-fought summit clash to defend the Hockey World League (HWL) Final crown at the Kalinga Stadium here today. It was a fitting end to the eight-nation tournament which witnessed a keen battle between world’s best two teams. Eventually, the experience of handling pressure in big tournaments came in handy for the three-time world champions Australia who scored through two penalty corner conversions by Jeremy Hayward (17th minute) and Blake Govers (58th) to add another crown to their glorious history. Argentina’s lone goal came from the sticks of Agustin Bugallo in the 18th minute. Contrary to the final result, Argentina had more shots on goal (nine against Australia’s six) than their opponents but the Kookaburras had better ball possession. Eventually, what turned out to be the difference between the two sides in the evenly-contested encounter was penalty corner conversions. Argentina had four penalty corners but Gonzalo Peillat and Co. failed to find the net once, whereas, Australia had a 100 per cent record from set pieces converting two out of two.
After a barren first quarter, Australia took the lead minutes into second quarter through Hayward who beat Argentina goalkeeper Juan Vivaldi with a powerful grounded flick to the right side. But Australia’s joy was shortlived as the Los Leones equalised in the next minute with a gem of a field goal. Standing in a one-on-one situation with an Australia defender inside the ‘D’, Bugallo neatly directed in Lucas Villa’s free hit from outside the circle. Thereafter, it was a neck-and-neck battle between the two sides as they tried hard to assert supremacy over the other. Australia’s finally succeeded in their efforts late into the match when Govers converted their second penalty in the 58th minute.
In the last two minutes, it was all Argentina as they attacked in numbers in search of the equaliser and in the process earned two penalty corners but the Australians defended well to maintain their slender lead. Australian goalkeeper Tyler Lovell made some important saves in the dying minutes of the game to keep the Argentines at bay and ensure the gold medal for his side.