| Baljit Singh Dhillon
Sydney, June 7 (PTI): India faltered in the dying stages to concede two goals to be held to a 4-4 draw by arch rivals Pakistan but still qualified for the final of the second leg of the three-nation hockey tournament on Saturday.
Needing just a draw to make it to the final, the Indians raced to a 2-0 lead within six minutes. Their defensive blues, however, continued to haunt them as they conceded two dramatic goals in the last 15 minutes to help Pakistan restore parity.
Baljit Singh Dhillon struck twice in the sixth minute, while Prabhjot Singh (30th) and Jugraj Singh (54th) were the other scorers. For Pakistan, Ali Raza (10th), Mohammed Saqlain (39th), Kashish Jawad (55th) and Shabir Hussain (60th) sounded the board.
The Indians dominated proceedings to be comfortably placed at 3-1 at half-time. The gutsy Pakistanis did well to bounce back, capitalising on defensive lapses.
The Indians, who lost 1-2 to Australia in the first-leg final in Perth, will now get the opportunity to avenge the defeat when the teams clash in Sunday’s final.
In a match marred by frayed tempers, India’s strategy to play attacking hockey from the word go paid rich dividends when the side scored two goals in the sixth minute through veteran striker Dhillon. He first converted a penalty stroke and then caught the Pakistan defenders napping when he scored a brilliant field goal within a few seconds of the first. For Pakistan, Raza slotted home in the 10th minute.
India tightened their grip further when Prabhjot scored in the 30th minute to give his a side 3-1 lead just before half time.
The complexion of the game changed in the second session after Dhillon was shown a red card for arguing with the Pakistani players. The Indians played with ten men for the last 23 minutes.
The Indians suffered a setback early in the second half when Saqlain scored in the 39th minute. Though India again extended the lead when Jugraj converted a penalty corner, Pakistan pumped in two more within five minutes to set the stage for a thrilling finish.
Australia held by A team
Later in the day, Grant Schubert scored a brace as Australia A held their senior team 3-3. Australia, who were upset 2-7 by the second-string team in the first leg, were heading for a similar fate before Jamie Dwyer scored twice to save his team the blushes.