India grabbed their first points in the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament on Tuesday. In a must-win round-robin league game in Ipoh, Malaysia, India got the better of Pakistan 3-1, leading 2-1 at half-time. This was a must-win clash for India because the new-look team had lost its first couple of games against Australia and South Korea.
Tuesday’s win lifts India to the fourth position in the six-nation tournament. Pakistan also have a win from three matches but have an inferior goal-difference than India’s. Table-toppers Australia and Malaysia have 7 points each after playing a 1-1 draw in the last match on Tuesday.
India led 2-1 at the breather with goals from Rupinder Pal Singh and Akashdeep Singh. Mandeep Singh scored a field goal in the 56th minute to seal a game where both nations defended better than took their scoring chances.
The match was off to an explosive start. Three goals were scored in the first 10 minutes with Pakistan taking the lead in the 5th. India leveled the very next minute and in the 9th, made it 2-1. Two of these three goals came from penalty corners even as Pakistan enjoyed territorial supremacy.
Pakistan shot into the lead in the fourth minute when Mohammed Waqas deflected in a smart penalty corner. But India took advantage of their first short corner when Rupinder’s powerful dragflick beat the Pakistani defence.
India made it 2-1 through Akashdeep, who capped a sizzling move down the right split open the Pakistan defence. Top scorer of the junior Asia Cup, Akashdeep showed wonderful opportunism striking home a feeble save by the Pakistan goalie. India could have scored at least two more goals but goalmouth crosses went abegging in what was an entertaining first half.
India made it 3-1 when an unmarked Mandeep Singh kept his cool inside the striking circle, first deflecting a hit-in and then slamming in the rebound.
Pakistan did everything but score a second goal. They had nine penalty corners in the game, but poor finish and some solid goalkeeping by veteran goalie Sreejesh denied India’s arch-rivals. India played a good tactical game, defending well and keeping their lead intact with timely challenges.
This was the 52nd time India have beaten Pakistan in an international hockey match. Last year too, India beat Pakistan 2-1 in the Azlan Shah Cup with goals from Sandeep Singh and S.V. Sunil.