India defeated Pakistan 2-1 in a thrilling encounter at Ipoh (Malaysia). Sandeep Singh scored the first goal for the men in blue in the 29th minute by converting India’s fist Penalty corner. After a thrilling session of play, it was eventually the Pakistani captain Sohail Abbas who equalized by converting a penalty corner after Pakistan had missed 5 of them earlier in the game. It was desperate play from the Indians after that as they built attack after attack. In the last minute of the game, India displayed the talent that is talked about the world over but rarely gets shown on the field. SK Uthappa moved from the midfield on the left and passed one to Sardar Singh in the middle. He took little time to deflect the ball to SV Sunil who was rushing forward from the right. Sunil controlled the ball, dodged the keeper as he lost his balance and pushed the ball towards the goal as he was falling. The ball squeezed past the post, taking a bit of deflection from the woodwork and into the back of the net to start off jubilation among the Indian fans world over.
The first half started by Pakistan making move after move towards Indian half and dominating the possession early on in the match, with Haseem Khan looking the most dangerous of the lot as he made continuous forays into the Indian D. But the first distinct feature of the match was the Indian defense. It was solid and did not give away easy chances as displayed in the earlier matches in the tournament. Sandeep Singh, Birendra Lakra, Manpreet and Ragunath put their bodies on the line as they defended one move after another from the desperate Pakistanis. As the match wore on though, India slowly got into the groove and took the attack to the opposition. Tushar and Sunil were exceptional up front. Tushar, in particular, was deadly today as he beat the Pakistani defense many times. But India still didn’t get into best positions to convert. Pakistan, in the meanwhile, fluffed 4 chances at penalty corner, some brilliantly blocked by Sandeep or Chetri and some miscued on the rebound by Pakistan. India got their first chance at Penalty Corner in the 29th minute and Sandeep didn’t disappoint by converting it as India took lead going into the half-time.
Second half started with both the teams taking the midfield route and battle being played out mostly in the middle. But Pakistan slowly started building continuous waves of attack as Indians tried their best to keep them from equalizing. With 10 minutes to go, India was looking to keep the lead intact as Pakistan got yet another penalty corner. It was their captain Suhail Abbas who converted the chance in the 60th minute with a powerfully grounded drive that went past the gap between Bharat Chetri‘s legs. With Pakistan netting the equalized, the last 10 minutes saw some enthralling display of attacking hockey from both the teams. Tushar made some deft moves in the D and displayed brilliant skills with the ball but still couldn’t find the winner with poor finishing being the bane of Indians. All that, however, changed in the 69th minute as SV Sunil made a brilliant finish to earn India a scintillating win.
Although it wouldn’t do India much good in the fact that they are virtually out of the contention for the finals, it will give the team immense confidence as they showed that what they are capable of doing, even if in short bursts.