Ipoh,15 May:India thwarted a series of late charges from Pakistan to notch up a stunning 2-1 win over the arch-rivals and stay in contention for the title in the Azlan Shah Hockey tournament in Ipoh on Thursday.
Indian drag-flickers Sandeep Singh (6th minute) and Diwakar Ram (20th) rose up to the expectation by scoring a goal apiece, while veteran Pakistani mid-fielder Mohammad Saqlain (58th) netted the lone goal for his side.
With their third straight win in the tournament, India has now garnered nine points from five matches.
The Indians were in the attacking mode from the beginning and Shivendra Singh led the forward line with command producing two good chances that went a begging.
But in the sixth minute, Sandeep unleashed a power-packed shot to convert India’s first penalty corner and give his side 1-0 lead.
Three minutes later, Sandeep had another chance to shoot at the Pakistani post, but this time his attempt was rather predictable and the rival goal-keeper Rashid had no problem in palming it away.
Banking on the third short corner, Diwakar Ram brought the second goal for India.With both Sandeep and Diwakar on guard to have a go at the goal, the Pakistanis had a little doubt about whom to tackle and the younger of the rag-flickers fired his shot which hit Rashid’s shoulder before deflecting to the roof of the net.
The amateurish-looking Pakistanis were completely off-colour in their approach.While the defenders were too cautious, the attackers were half-hearted and tentative.They wasted as many as four penalty corners in the first half.
Pakistan’s best chance of the session came towards the end when an experienced Saqlain sent in a beauty of a cross to Waqas Akbar on the top of the circle.
But the latter could not utilise the opportunity to reduce the margin.
Pakistan adopted a comparatively aggressive approach in the second half and created several forays though without tasting any success.On one occasion, they had nearly scored a goal when a Shakeel Abbassi initiated move was marvelously taken forward by Mohammad Zubair.The ball then went to Waqas who guided it to Rehan Butt.
But the attempt ultimately was foiled by Indian goalkeeper Adrian D’Souza to the utter frustration of his rivals.The Pakistani forwards, who found some rhythm after the change of ends, showed more urgency to spirit several moves, but either their untidy finishing or the never-say-die Indian defence put out their ambitions.
Pakistan pulled one off in the 58th minute when they got a penalty stroke off a good move.Saqlain easily put it past Adrian to open the account for his side.
A minute later, deliberate blocking of Sunil brought another penalty corner for India, but Diwakar’s low drag-flick hit the Pakistan goal-keeper’s heel to narrowly miss the target.
Adrian then showed a lot of courage and agility to ward of at least three deadly attempts from the Pakistani forwards and keep India’s chances alive for a much-required win.
In their last league engagement, India will meet hosts Malaysia on Saturday.
Courtsey: DD NEWS