NEW DELHI: The traditional hockey wizardry was on display in Muscat on Saturday as India defeated arch-rivals Pakistan 3-1 with pure skill to register their second consecutive win in the ongoing Asian Men’s Champions Trophy.
The World No. 13 Pakistan stunned India with a first-minute strike, but that woke the World No. 5 team up, led by captain Manpreet Singh‘s 24th-minute leveller, which reminded of the way Mohammed Shahid and Shahbaz Ahmed used to mesmerize in India-Pakistan encounters.
The fourth quarter did not produce any goals despite India dominating.
Pakistan earned a penalty corner in the first minute, and though PR Sreejesh managed to save the drag-flick, the rebound fell within the reach of Muhammad Irfan Jr., who dived full stretch to slide the ball in one-handed.
It sounded the alarm bells early for the top-ranked Asian team, as they added edge to their attack; however, Pakistan managed to stay ahead 1-0 at the end of first quarter.
Pakistan striker Muhammad Zubair got an excellent opportunity to add to his team’s lead in the 18th minute and had all the time to take aim but came up with a poor effort.
India’s closest chance to equalise arrived in the 24th minute when Akashdeep Singh made a beautiful turn inside the Pakistani circle and took a tomahawk, but it missed the mark.
In the same minute, the game saw the first of its two most skillfull goals when India captain Manpreet went past three defenders before beating the goalkeeper with a slap-push to bring India level at 1-1.
The goal inspired India, and Nilakanta Sharma could have made it 2-1 before half-time but his shot went wide of the Pakistani post.
Two minutes after half-time, junior World Cup-winner Mandeep Singh showed the worth of his off-the-ball running, as he made brilliant space inside the circle to receive the assist from Akashdeep. Despite having his back to the Pakistani goal, Mandeep — a product of Jalandhar’s Surjeet Hockey Academy — tipped the ball in through his legs to put India ahead 2-1.
Teen striker Dilpreet then scored his fourth goal of the tournament when Akashdeep once again started a brilliant counter to find Lalit Upadhyay to his right. He sent a perfectly-timed ball to Dilpreet in the centre, and he didn’t make any mistake to complete India’s 3-1 victory.
Pakistan seemed to have gone off the boil and looked stunned after India equalised through Manpreet’s magical goal. In contrast, India upped the ante after that as Pakistan began to appear a poor second in the contest, wasting their other two penalty corners.
India too earned two penalty corners, but couldn’t convert those into goals.
“We conceded a goal in the first minute, which was not good, need to work on that. We scored off our chances, which is why we won,” captain Manpreet said at the presentation ceremony.
India next take on Asian Games champions Japan tomorrow at 2240 IST.
Source : timesofindia