Melbourne: Australia began their hunt for a fifth successive Champions Trophy title by spiking debutant Belgium's challenge 4-2 in a Pool A match on the opening day at the State Hockey Centre here Saturday. Leading 3-0 soon on goals from Glenn Simpson (fourth minute), Jacob Whetton (29th) and Russell Ford (37th), Australia were jostled by two goals in successive minutes from Sebastian Dockier (38th and 39th), who gave Belgium something to cheer in their maiden appearance in the Champions Trophy.
Just 45 seconds separated the two goals from Dockier, who first deflected in a cross and then sent a stinging shot past custodian Andrew Charter, who came in as a substitute goalkeeper after half-time and conceded two goals within four minutes. Striker Christopher Ciriello, who returned to the pitch in the second half despite suffering a broken nose early in the game, fired Australia's fourth goal to again lift the spirits of a partisan home crowd.
In another Pool A match, New Zealand gave Olympic champions Germany a scare before the world's top-ranked team prevailed 3-2. Staging a fine rally in the closing stages after slipping behind by three goals at half-time, New Zealand came close to equalising, only to see the strikers miss a chance in the dying seconds. Earlier, Olympic Games silver medallists Netherlands launched the tournament with a 3-1 come-from-behind victory over Pakistan, who stunned the Dutch defence midway in the first session to open the scoring through nippy striker Muhammad Waqas.
But the Dutch penalty corner drills then penetrated three times to take full points from the Pool B fixture. Before New Zealand came into the contest, Germany coasted to a three-goal lead before the breather. Tobias Matania opened the account with a penalty corner strike in the second minute before field goals from Jan Christopher Ruehr (21st minute) and Oliver Korn (26th) made it 3-0 for the Germans. The New Zealand rally began with a 56th minute penalty corner goal by Matt LHuillier and they were in the chase for a point when Nicholas Wilson shot on target in open play four minutes from the hooter.
The Germans had to fall back a bit to ward off the late Black Sticks surge that nearly fetched them the equaliser in the last few seconds. The New Zealand strikers, however, failed to get a shot past custodian Nicholas Jacobi, who managed to hold his ground. Pakistan surprised the Dutch defence when Waqas capitalised on a move by seasoned striker Shakeel Abbasi, slotting the ball into the boards in the 17th minute.
Pakistan held the lead until the 31st minute when Netherlands equalised on a set-piece penalty corner conversion by Sander de Wijn, whose deflection was again on target in the 45th minute to put the Dutch in the lead for the first time. Jerone Hertzberger sent in a penalty corner shot past goalkeeper Imran Butt in the 14th minute to increase the Dutch lead and put the game beyond Pakistans reach. Pakistan had a few openings to gens t back into the contest, but Dutch custodian Jaap Stockmann was not to be beaten again.