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13 Oct 2010

India reached their first Commonwealth Games men's hockey amid ecstatic scenes in Delhi, beating England on penalties.

The hosts surrendered a 1-0 lead on the stroke of half-time when Ashley Jackson scored from a penalty corner.

Two more set-pieces saw Jackson and Simon Mantell put England 3-1 up but the hosts roared back, with two scores from open play.

Still tied at 3-3 after extra time, keeper Bharat Chetri's save of a Glenn Kirkham flick proved the difference.

India gained revenge over the side that beat them 3-2 at the same venue in April's World Cup - one that contained 10 of the Great Britain team who knocked them out of the 2008 Olympic qualifiers.

They will meet World Cup holders and pre-tournament favourites Australia, who beat New Zealand 6-2 earlier on Tuesday, in Thursday's final.

The victory capped a memorable day in Delhi for India's Commonwealth Games team, with Chetri's penalty heroics occurring at almost exactly the same moment as the Indian women's 4x400m relay team stormed to gold at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

England had the better of the early exchanges but could not capitalise, and India opened the scoring after 19 minutes when Richard Mantell was penalised as the ball hit his feet and Saravanjit Singh converted a bundled short corner.

The visitors' three goals were just reward for a sustained period of pressure around the break, but they missed a chance to put the game out of reach when Jackson hit the top of the bar with his third penalty-corner opportunity.

A stadium close to its 19,000 capacity had little to cheer while England made the most of rash errors from Indian defenders under pressure.

But the first goal from open play saw them re-awaken, as Vikram Pillay collected Sandeep Singh's lightning cross from the left and flicked past sprawling England goalkeeper James Fair.

And the second brought them to a new crescendo, Saravanjit Singh making the most of confusion around the goalmouth to rattle home.

India had the better of the 15 minutes of extra time but could not score the golden goal that would have ended the match.

After a lifted clearance by Richard Smith with 30 seconds left in the first period, Sandeep Singh dragged his short-corner chance high and left.

And Fair leapt acrobatically to his right to save a close-range shot with six minutes remaining in the second.

He looked the better of the keepers against penalties but Chetri was there when it mattered, and was carried from the field by his team-mates after their celebratory lap of honour.

"We created chances and we held them off for long spells. We were just so disappointed to lose as we really wanted to play in the final here," said Richard Mantell.

"The crowd here was amazing. It did make it hard to hear each other on the pitch but we just had to be alert and actually we used the crowd to our advantage and played some great hockey."

Other England players aired grievances with the umpires over the manner of India's victory, claiming at least one Indian penalty flick should have been disallowed.

"The way he dragged the ball for five yards, it was unbelievable," said England defender Richard Alexander, referring to Arjun Halappa's crucial fourth penalty.

"It seemed as if the rules had been changed. We teach under-11s at home not to drag, but two of their flicks were dragged.

"It was up to the umpire to stand up and take the call. They will probably see the video replays and realise they have made a mistake."

However, Indian coach Jose Brasa dismissed the English complaints, saying: "It was within the rules. Halappa had his feet firmly on the ground.

"The rule is broken only if you move your feet while taking the shot."

Earlier, defending champions Australia secured their place in the final as they resisted a late New Zealand comeback to win 6-2.

Three goals in six minutes, from Simon Orchard, Glenn Turner and Jason Wilson put Australia in control.

Des Abbott made it 4-0 before Blair Hilton and Phil Burrows raised Kiwi hopes, only for Turner and Orchard to make sure of the win.

Australia have not lost a match at the Commonwealth Games since hockey was introduced in 1998 and asserted their dominance early on with three penalty corners, all saved by Kyle Pontifex.

But Orchard found a way past him on 25 minutes, and three minutes later Turner cut in from the left to smack home a second.

Turner then turned provider, setting up Wilson for the third.

Abbott further extended the advantage after the break before the Black Sticks, who coped with the heat by wearing ice vests during half-time, struck back through Hilton and captain Phil Burrows.

But Australia slammed the door shut on any hopes of a late comeback with further goals by Turner and Orchard ensuring their maintained their 100% Games record.

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