PTI

Johor Bahru (Malaysia), October 29

Two-time champions India defeated Australia 5-4 in a nail-biting penalty shootout to reclaim the Sultan of Johor Cup crown, breaking their five-year-old title jinx here on Saturday.

The teams were level at 1-1 after regulation time in the title encounter.

In the shootout, both teams ended with 3-3 scoreline, forcing the match into sudden death.

As many as nine penalty shots were needed to decide the winner and it was Australia who had the first crack with Cooper Burns but India goalkeeper Mohith Shashikumar kept him out.

India started off with Vishnukant Singh, who calmly lifted it over the keeper and into the back of the net. Liam Hart then scored Australia’s first goal in the shootout, after which Sudeep shot wide, and the tie-breaker was locked at 1-1 after the first two shots.

Mohith foiled Jayden Atkinson’s attempt, before captain Uttam Singh won a penalty stroke, which Sharda Nand Tiwari promptly put away, giving India a 2-1 lead.

Up next for Australia was Joshua Brooks and he made it 2-2, but Boby Singh Dhami could not put India ahead. Australia won a penalty stroke off the next attempt as Brodee Foster was checked by the keeper and Joshua scored without much ado.

Ankit Pal then walked up to the spot for India, and he equalised, to make it 3-3, taking the game into sudden death.

In sudden death, Vishnukant stepped up for India, but he missed, after which Hart was denied by the post. Uttam then gave India a 4-3 lead with the next attempt, and Burns made it 4-4.

Boby cut a disappointed figure on missing his attempt, before Brodee put it wide, and the two teams remained tied at 4-4 in what was turning out to be a dramatic finish.

Sudeep then held his nerve and made it 5-4, while Joshua missed as Indian players ran amok in celebration.

Earlier, both sides looked to play at a high tempo, with Mohith Shashikumar pulling off a fine save early on.

Australia controlled proceedings in the early exchanges, while Uttam and Boby tried to push India forward. The efforts paid off as India broke the deadlock through Sudeep (14′) and went into the first break leading 1-0, much to the joy of fans at the stadium.

Looking to build on the lead in the second quarter, India began on the front foot, with most of the contest being played in Australia’s half.

As the quarter progressed, Australia’s hunt for the equaliser intensified, and even though India were absorbing the pressure well, Jack Holland (29′) scored. India and Australia went into the half-time break with the score reading 1-1.

Both sides looked cautious in the second half and midway through the quarter, India almost edged ahead with Sudeep but neither side were able to outsmart the other, as the quarter ended with the score at 1-1.

In the final quarter, both India and Australia turned up the heat by a few notches but as the final six minutes began, the score still read 1-1. Both sides gave it their all, but weren’t able to find the winner in regulation time, as the final went into a penalty shootout.

The Indians have won the age group tournament twice — 2013 and 2014 — and finished second best four times in 2012, 2015, 2018 and the last edition of the event in 2019.

The tournament was not held in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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