Pakistan edge past India in opening clash

Pakistan edge past India in opening clash

Hockey: Asia Cup: Sohail Abbas strikes winning goal as defending champs crumble

Pakistan edge past India in opening clash

Defending champions India started their Asia Cup campaign on a disastrous note, going down 2-3 to arch-rivals Pakistan in a tense, rain-marred Pool B match at the Wisma Belia Kuantan Hockey stadium here on Sunday.

While India scored through Prabhjot Singh and Rajpal Singh, Pakistan had their heroes in Hasneem Khan and the comeback duo of Rehan Butt and Sohail Abbas, who scored the match-winner.

The traditional rivals started the game at a fast pace and seemed in no mood to concede an inch to each other. Both teams displayed attractive hockey in the pulsating opening half with the ball continuously moving from one end to the other.

More aggressive

Pakistan were the more aggressive and found the net as early as the fourth minute through Tariq Aziz from the top of the semi-circle, but umpire John Right ruled out the goal due to an infringement.

Stung by Pakistan’s early attacks, the Indians stepped up their offensive and very nearly scored in the 13th minute, only to be denied by experienced custodian Salman Akbar.

India opened the scoring against the run of play after Prabhjot converted a rebound from skipper Sandeep Singh’s penalty corner in the 15th minute. But with just two minutes remaining for the breather, Pakistan struck back with Hasneem scoring with a reverse flick from a well constructed counter-attack. Pakistan could have scored many more goals had they not wasted several penalty corner attempts.

Experienced centre forward Butt, who made a comeback to the national team in this tournament, made it 2-1 for Pakistan in the very first minute of the second half from a goalmouth melee.

Rajpal strikes

India soon drew parity in the 10th minute through Rajpal’s field goal before heavy rains suspended play for nearly 40 minutes.

However, veteran Abbas ensured a happy outing for Pakistan when he scored the winning goal off their fifth short corner in the 55th minute through a powerful drag-flick which beat Indian custodian Baljit Singh hands down.

Thereafter, India got two penalty corners and a couple of chances to equalise, but they muffed them with goalkeeper Akbar coming to Pakistan’s rescue on many occasions.

SV Sunil was the star performer for India but he was unlucky not to get on the scoreboard, while skipper Sandeep was off-colour as he wasted three penalty corners in the last 10 minutes of the match.

That proved costly as Pakistan held on to their lead to force an important win, leaving the Indians despondent.

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