Asian Champions Trophy: India record memorable comeback victory over Pakistan, win 3-2
Blueshirts take the spoils in a 5-goal thriller.
India nearly assured their place in the final four of the Asian Champions trophy as they trumped fierce rivals Pakistan 3-2 at Kuantan, Malaysia. Coming at the backdrop of a lot of political agitation from the two sides, the game was supposed to be about more than just Hockey and it certainly lived up to its billing with both sides giving it their all.
However, in the end it was India who took the prize, coming back from a goal down to grab all three points.
Pakistan came out of the blocks like a freight train and had their first penalty corner within the first minute of the game. However, a couple of good saves from the ever reliable PR Sreejesh in goal denied the men in green a chance at further jubilation.
India looked sloppy in the beginning with the returning Birender Lakra looking particularly shaky. However, as time wore on, Indian began to grow into the game. The Blueshirts ended the quarter with six circle penetrations but had nothing to show for it.
The best chance of the opening 15 minutes, in fact, dropped to the Indian when Talwinder received and swivelled to allow himself space to hit a shot on the reverse. However, the ball sailed high and wide.
The second quarter began in the same vein as the second ended with India gunning from the right time and again. And finally, the break came from that side of the field.
A beautifully delivered aerial ball from Rupinder Pal Singh found India's skipper for the night, SK Uthappa on the right who rolled the ball onto Pardeep Mor's path. Pardeep’s shot from an acute angle deceived Pakistan goalie Imran Butt, who seemed to be looking for a deflection.
With Ramandeep blocking his view, the ball slipped through his legs to give India the vital lead. And India could have stretched their lead further when they headed into a three on one situation at the fag end of the first half only to see Ramandeep slip at the vital moment.
The second half, however, began on an ominous note for the Indians when Mohammad Rizwan senior thrashed home the equalizer from the top of the circle. It was an outstanding strike from the forward, taking full advantage of an Indian defence that was still sleepwalking and as he placed the ball it into the corner where the agile Sreejesh had no chance.
India, however, didn't seem to have woken up after that big jolt as 9 minutes into the third quarter, the men in green took the lead. Some wonderful skills down the left touchline by Umar Bhutta left Birender Lakra in his shadows as he teed up Mohammad Irfan junior .who gleefully took the chance
However, the Blueshirts didn't cave in and goals from Rupinder Pal Singh and Ramandeep Singh saw the Indians storm back into the lead before the end of the third quarter.
The Indians held off their fierce rivals in the last quarter to see out the game; running out 3-2 winners on the day.
The win sees them leapfrog Malaysia into first place in the table for the time being and nearly assures Roelant Oltmans' men a place in the semi-finals.
India next plays China on the 25th of this month,