IANS Kuantan, Malaysia
India produced a superb comeback to defeat Pakistan 3-2 in their third round robin match at the Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament here yesterday.
For India, Pardeep Mor (22nd minute), Rupinder Pal Singh (43rd minute) and Ramandeep Singh (44th minute) found the targets while Muhammad Rizwan Senior and Muhammad Irfan Junior scored for Pakistan, respectively in the 31st and 39th minute. With this win, India has seven points from three matches are in second position in the table. India will now take on China tomorrow. Hosts Malaysia posted their third successive victory when they outplayed Japan 7-2 to stay on top of the round-robin league standings with a maximum nine points. Pakistan and China are on three points from three outings.
Star striker Faizal Saari scored two goals to lead the Malaysian charge, while five others made an entry in the scoresheet. Japan denied the dominant Malaysian strikers a goal until the 23rd minute when Niman Nik Rosemi opened the account with a field goal.
Rashid Baharom, Nabil Noor, Firhan Ashari and Fitri Saari were the other scorers for Malaysia, who had defeated defending champions Pakistan 4-2 and China 5-1 in earlier matches. Japan, who have lost all their three matches, got two late consolation goals from Kenji Kitazato and Kentaro Fukuda.
India did not get the start they wanted as in the initial minutes of the game Pakistan broke with a long ball and got their first penalty corner of the match but Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh pulled off two back-to-back saves.
The first quarter also saw both teams trying to create openings but it was Pakistan who proved superior throughout the quarter as India failed to find their bearings when Talwinder Singh’s shot went past the goalkeeper’s gloves and then over the post.
The first quarter came to end with Pakistan dominating. They made at least three good moves and the Indian defence did well not to concede a goal.
In the second quarter, India played with more discipline by not giving away anything in the defence and keeping up the pressure in the midfield.
They penetrated the Pakistan circle many times but success came only in the 22nd minute when a long ball from Rupinder Pal Singh went to SK Utthapa and then Mor slammed a cross into the circle that went through the legs of Pakistan custodian into the goal.
The Pakistan defensive structure of Muhammad Arshad, Niwaz Ashfaq and Muhammad Bilal were alert and confident, denying the penetration by the blue sticks.
The Roelant Oltmans-coached side went to half time with a 1-0 lead. After the break, a rejuvenated Pakistan started the proceedings much more strongly and found an equaliser in the initial minutes of the third quarter.
Rizwan Sr snapped a shot that left Indian custodian Sreejesh slightly off balance and resulted in the scoreboard count of 1-1. Soon after the equaliser, Pakistan showed more intent in the game as they scored another goal in the 39th minute to take the vital lead. This time a field goal by Irfan Junior did the damage to India.
It seemed like this goal changed everything for India as out of nowhere, India scored two goals within a span of one minute in the dying minutes of the third quarter and created panic among the Pakistani players. The first of these two goals was scored by drag-flicker Rupinder in the 43rd minute via a penalty corner and then in the 44th minute Ramandeep scored a field goal. Lalit Upadhyay passed the ball to Talwinder, whose deft pass was deflected into Pakistan’s goal by Ramandeep.
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