| Gagan Ajit Singh (right) celebrate his goal with Baljit Singh Saini on Friday. (Reuters)
Amstelveen: India came back from the dead to author a memorable 7-4 win against Pakistan in their last 25th Champions Trophy group league match at the Wagener Stadium on Friday.
In a fascinating contest that had the huge crowd on its feet, the Indians played for their lives to pump home five goals in the last 19 minutes for a win that would not be forgotten in a hurry.
Jugraj Singh (23rd, 35th), Deepak Thakur (51st, 65th), Prabhjot Singh (54th) and Gagan Ajit Singh (60th, 63rd) struck for India, while Pakistanís goals came from Rehan Butt (17th), Nadeem Ahmed (21st), Mudassar Ali (28th) and Sohail Abbas (43rd).
It was a bruising victory for the Indians as several players suffered injuries, notably Ignace Tirkey, who was stretched off the ground. More significantly, it was the first time ever India have scored seven against Pakistan.
There was plenty of action as both teams worked hard to seize the initiative. The Pakistanis, boasting of a gifted forwardline, were more on the attack early on and, in fact, forced a penalty corner in the very first minute.
But once the teams settled down, it was Pakistan who had more of the ball while the Indians squeezed in a few.
The Indian midfield was far from its best and kept on fumbling to allow the waves of Pakistan attacks. Indian goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan brought off a couple of good saves before Butt deflected in a pass from Sohail Abbas following a penalty corner. Then followed a spell of Pakistan ascendancy. Bimal Lakra played a mispass to Nadeem who, in a stunning burst of acceleration, cut past the Indian defenders and found the roof of the goal with a reverse hit.
Soon after, the Indians forced a penalty corner which Jugraj converted to put his team back in the game. However, Pakistan regained the initiative as Mudassar deflected a hit from Salim Khalid following a long corner.
A minute from half-time, India got a life-line when Jugraj converted yet another penalty corner to make it 2-3.
On resumption, Pakistan went on the attack and within minutes struck the fourth, Sohail coming good off a penalty corner. India retaliated in style by forcing a penalty corner. Pakistan goalkeeper, Ahmed Alam, who had previously received a green card for running out, received another warning.
Alam blocked Jugrajís drag flick but umpire Rob Ten Cate ordered the penalty corner to be retaken. This time, Alam rushed out to block Jugraj who recovered to flick the ball to Dhillon, who in turn passed to Thakur to score.
The Indians launched yet another attack from the right. Thakur advancing deep into the Pakistani territory, unleashed a terrific centre which found an unmarked Prabhjot Singh who swiftly slapped the ball home for the equaliser.
Ten minutes from close, Prabhjot put Gagan Ajit through on the left and the tall centre-forward let fly a reverse hit to put India in the lead. Hardly had the cheers died down when Pillay flicked to Gagan Ajit on the right, who in a magical run, sliced through and unleashed another reverse hit to the boards.
Pakistan were totally demoralised by the stunning Indian recovery and Thakur scored his second when he capped off a Pillay-Prabhjot move.
In the dying minutes, the rival players came down to blows following an infringement near the Pakistani circle. While the Indians finished their league engagements with six points, Pakistan have eight in their kitty.
On Thursday, Holland virtually assured themselves of a berth in the final with a hard-fought 6-3 win over Argentina (as reported in the Late City edition Thursday). (PTI)