India nail Pakistan for first victory

Malaysia hold Australia; Easy win for Black Sticks

A spirited India notched up a come-from-behind 3-1 win over arch-rivals Pakistan in a must-win match to keep alive their title hopes in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament here on Tuesday.

India were in a spot of bother ahead of the match after losing their opening two encounters, and another loss would have virtually shut the door on Michael Nobbs’ wards.

But, it was not to be, as India scored through Rupinder Pal Singh (5th minute), Akashdeep Singh (9th) and Mandeep Singh (56th) to seal the issue in their favour after Mohammad Waqas gave Pakistan the lead in the fourth minute of the game.

By virtue of Tuesday’s win, India have moved up in the team standings to the fourth position ahead of Pakistan with three points from as many games. It was an enthralling encounter between the two Asian giants, who adopted a cautious approach in the initial stages of the match. Going by the share of ball possession, Pakistan, by far, were the better side on display at least in the opening half.

The Pakistanis put the Indian defence under tremendous pressure in the opening few minutes of the game.

Their efforts produced result immediately when Waqas deflected in skipper Muhammad Imran’s flick after Pakistan tried a variation from their first penalty corner.
But the Indians hardly took any time to bounce back as they pumped in two goals in a span of five minutes to stun their neighbours.

Rupinder restored parity for India in the fifth minute converting India’s only penalty corner of the match with a fierce drag-flick which beat Pakistan goal-keeper Imran Butt all ends up.  Four minutes later, an opportunist Akashdeep put India ahead, slamming in a rebound after Nithin Thimmiah’s initial shot was stopped by Pakistan custodian Shah.

Off day
Pakistan had an off day which can be gauged from the fact that they only managed to convert one out of the eight penalty corners that came their way.

Pakistan’s task became even more difficult when Mandeep scored India’s third goal in the 56th minute. Mandeep scored from a rebound after his initial touch was gloved away by Shah.

After a rest day on Wednesday, India will play defending champions New Zealand, who beat Korea 0-3 in the first match of the day while Pakistan will be up against hosts Malaysia. 

Hugo Inglis (5th), Cory Bennett (11th) and Andy Hayward (41st) were the goalscorers for the Kiwis, who thus notched up their first win of the tournament.

In the day’s final match, hosts Malaysia pulled off a stunning 1-1 draw against favourites Australia that has thrown the tournament wide open.

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