In a dazzling second-half show, India whipped arch-rivals Pakistan 4-0 in a round-robin league match of the invitational under-21 Sultan of Johor Cup hockey tournament in Johor Bahru, Malaysia on Wednesday. Sukhmanjit Singh (38th and 46th), Imran Khan (45th) and Ramandeep Singh (61st) scored for India in what turned out to be a totally one-sided contest. The teams were locked 0-0 at half-time.
This was India's third straight win while Pakistan lost their first game in three outings. India and Malaysia are level on points (nine from three wins each) but the hosts are No. 1 in the six-team championship with a better goal-difference. India play Korea while Pakistan and Malaysia lock horns in key games on Thursday. A win against Korea should ensure India a spot in Sunday's final.
"It was a great performance from the players and I am both happy and proud. The players played to instructions, not falling into playing the pace of our opponents in the first half," said Indian team manager Baljit Singh Saini, who coached the team last year.
"The win was as a result of the ability of the players to finish off the chances created and this augurs well for our quest to make the final," the former Olympian added.
India looked a galvanized lot after the breather. Sukhmanjit scored in the 38th minute from India's second penalty corner of the game after his first-half effort hit the woodwork. It was a crisp finish after the Indians employed an indirect set-piece.
Imran's 45th minute field goal showed the Pakistan defence in poor light and after Sukhmanjit converted a stroke in the 46th, the Pakistanis looked completely gutted. Unlike the Indians, the Pakistanis had experience in their team but they looked completely out of sorts.
The hard-working Ramandeep Singh completed the rout in the 61st minute. It was a brilliant field goal and the best of the match. Imran and Mohammed Amir Khan set up Ramandeep with a simple finish after a sizzling move down the centre left the Pakistanis gasping.
With Pakistan making very little effort to hit back, India defended easily and even changed goalkeepers. India struggled to beat Argentina and England in their opening games but they looked good in a big game like Pakistan.