Pakistan prevail in a thriller

Spirited India go down 3-4; Germany sink Australia to complete final line-up

Pakistan prevail in a thriller

An opportunistic Pakistan broke Indian hearts with a last-gasp goal to storm into the FIH Champions Trophy final here on Saturday.

In a pulsating semifinal that swung from one end to another, Muhammad Arslan Qadir struck with 90 seconds left as the familiar late defensive woes cost India a chance to create history at the Kalinga Stadium.

In the final on Sunday, Pakistan will lock horns with Germany, who ended Australia’s six-year long reign, edging past the Kookaburras 3-2.

With Indian High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans stating that he wanted this team to play with a strategic mind rather than wearing their emotions on their sleeve, the Indians started the match on a cautious note. Realising that a win would put them in a maiden Champions Trophy final, the hosts kept things tight at the start, pressing forward only when a clear-cut chance presented.

The patient approach helped India open their account in the 12th minute through Gurjinder Singh’s drag-flick. But that lead lasted just five minutes after Qadir deflected home a brilliant cross from Shafqat Rasool. Indians soon started to the feel the pressure.

While they attacked a lot, they kept squandering chances with both Nikkin Thimmaiah and Manpreeet Singh missing a great chance each towards the closing stages of the second quarter.

Pakistan made India pay for those misses when Muhammad Waqas finished a brilliant piece of counter-attack in the 32nd minute. That goal somehow threw India off-balance. All the mental fortitude and discipline they displayed against the Netherlands and Belgium was completely absent.

Most of the strikers, while showing great skill in taking the ball into the Pakistani circle, seemed intent on individual glory than scoring a goal for the team.

Akashdeep Singh then sent a defence-splitting pass to Dharamvir, who rounded goalkeeper Imran Butt to slot home the equaliser. With their tails up, India started pushing for the lead while Pakistan relied on their counter-attacks as the game sat on a knife-edge.

Pakistan then stroked ahead for the second time in the 44th minute when Muhammad Imran sold a superb dummy from a penalty corner to Muhammad Irfan, who slotted it home perfectly.

However, India hauled themselves back into the match within a minute when Nikkin deflected Gurbaj Singh’s exceptional pass. But, that joy ended in complete despair when Qadir struck from a goalmouth melee before sparking off unsavoury celebration by the visitors after the final whistle.

In the first semifinal, Germany made the perfect start to their semifinal contest, jumping to a 2-0 lead even before the Australians could settle down. Timur Oruz deflected home a brilliant ball in the fifth minute while Mats Grambusch thumped home from a rebound four minutes later as the Germans were all over the Australians like bad rash.

The Germans then appeared to have game well in their bag when Florian Fuchs slotted home in the 31st minute.

Never to throw in the towel, the Aussies staged a typical rally with Chris Ciriello scoring in the 34th minute and Nicholas Budgeon making it 2-3 with a fine goal in the 42nd minute as Germans began to feel the heat.

Sensing something sensational, the Aussies threw everything at the Germans but the Olympic champions defended doggedly to march into the final.

DH News Service
Results: Semifinals: Germany: 3 (Timur Oruz 5th, Mats Grambusch 9th, Florian Fuchs 31st) bt Australia: 2 (Chris Ciriello 34th, Nicholas Budgeon 42nd); Pakistan: 4 (Muhammad Arslan Qadir 17th, 59th, Muhammad Waqas 32nd, Muhammad Irfan 44th) bt India: 3 (Gurjinder Singh 12th, Dharamvir Singh 38th, Nikkin Thimmaiah 59th).

5-8th place play-offs: Netherlands: 4 (Jeroen Hertzberger 11th, Sander Baart 30th) bt Belgium: 2 (Tom Boon 49th, Tanguy Cosyns 60th) via penalty shoot-out. FT: 2-2; Argentina: 2 (Gonzalo Peillat 25th, 48th) bt England: 1 (Ashley Jackson 12th).

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