Tokyo Olympics: Kookaburras through to gold medal game
Aran Zalewski was tonight the “Moose” that roared as his Kookaburras celebrated his deep Australian hockey contribution by advancing to tomorrow’s Olympic gold medal match against Belgium.
The Margaret River milestone man — known by his teammates as Moose — was typically solid in his 200th match as the Kookaburras outlasted Germany 3-1 to set up the Games decider between the two highest-ranked teams in the world.
After Australian hockey legend Jamie Dwyer retired at the end of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games and his successor Mark Knowles did the same after winning gold at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games two years later, Zalewski and Eddie Ockenden have filled the leadership void with the class that they again showed when it mattered last night.
After first-half goals to Tim Brand and Blake Govers, Lachie Sharp capped his own personal rollercoaster game by scoring in the dying minutes when Germany had replaced their goalkeeper Alexander Stadler for an extra player as they tried to find a late score.
In a high-octane opening, with a spot in the gold medal match on the line, the Kookaburras set the tone when the in-form rand scored the first goal of the match with his brilliant deflection from a smashing Flynn Ogilvie cross after Govers had looped a high ball into the circle from the midfield.
But Germany answered within minutes, when defender Lukas Windfeder swept the first short corner of the match into Ogilvie’s stick on the goal line and the ball sailed high into the net.
Every time the Germans pushed forward they looked dangerous with their relentless attack creating many scoring opportunities.
But after an error by Sharp had cost his team the penalty corner that led to Germany’s first goal, he earnt one back at the other end.
Govers then did the rest with a sizzling low shot to Stadler’s right from the penalty corner to give the Kookaburras a 2-1 lead they held into half-time.
Neither team scored in a tense third quarter where opportunities dried up and a timely and successful referral in the final seconds saved the Kookaburras from facing a late penalty corner.
They then played smart, controlled hockey to the finish to get the result.
Belgium had earlier advanced to the gold medal match with a dominant 5-2 win over India.
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