Hyderabad: Continuing their recent dominance over Pakistan, India beat their arch-rivals 4-2 in a high-voltage men’s hockey match of the Afro-Asian Games here Monday evening.
Benefiting from Pakistan’s failure to convert a penalty stroke, India again proved their might over their cross-border rivals by winning the first match on Indian soil between the two sides in over four years.
The win catapulted India to the top of pool B and they will meet Malaysia in the semi-finals Wednesday. Pakistan will have to battle it out against Asian Games winners South Korea for a place in the final.
Cheered by the 5,000-odd fans, which included the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu, India hardly made a false move and proved that their recent superiority over Pakistan was no fluke. This was India’s fourth win over Pakistan in the last seven battles.
Indian fans could not have asked for a better match, as both sides played and advertisement of the qualities of traditional Asian hockey.
Pakistan paid dearly for missing out on quite a few opportunities including a penalty stroke that Ghanzanfar Ali squandered in the dying stages, while India were leading 3-2 and a conversion would have put the teams on equal terms.
The match saw Gagan Ajit Singh, who struggled against Egypt and Nigeria in earlier matches, coming back to his scoring ways as he sounded the board twice, in the 41st and 67th minutes.
Sandeep Michael (24th) and Deepak Thakur (39th) scored one each. Pakistan scored both their goals in the first half in the 33rd and 35th minutes through Khalid Shalim and Shakeel Abassi.
India started on a cautious note, unlike their earlier matches against Nigeria and Egypt, and took some time before getting into the groove playing some aggressive hockey.
The first few minutes saw quite a lot drama though Pakistan created more opportunities, failing to capitalise on even one of them. Pakistan came quite close to scoring in the fifth minute but for a brilliant saving act by goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan which poured water on the rivals’ hopes.
Ghazanfar Ali and Muddssar Khan made a fine combined move, giving short and smart passes to each other and heading dangerously towards the Indian post.
Once inside the circle, Mudassar tried to lift the ball to a corner which was saved by Chauhan.
Two minutes later India made their first incisive move of the match which raised expectations as Len Aiyappa made a fine interception and gave a pass to Prabhjot on the left. Prabhjot’s cross went to Deepak who, after dodging past a few defenders, gave to a waiting Arjun Halappa whose powerful hit struck dependable defender Tariq Imran. This forced him to limping off the ground and miss the action for some time.
India’s aggression failed to deter Pakistan from carrying on their attack as they again came very close to scoring and captain Dilip Tirkey turned the ball over just in the nick of time.
The continuous failure to utilise the chances seemed to have frustrated the Pakistanis as they engaged in abusing the Indian players as well as the umpire.
Tariq Aziz got a yellow card for his misconduct when irked over an umpiring decision got into an argument with Viren Rasquinha.
Repeated Indian attempts on the opposition post finally came good when in the 24th minute. Gagan, after getting a long pass inside the D, mishit the ball which Pakistani goalkeeper Muhammed Qasim failed to clear, allowing Ignace Tirkey a go at the goal. Though Ignace’s shot from a difficult angle failed to get in, a lurking Michael came from nowhere to tap the ball in, setting off celebrations in the stands. (PTI)