Asian Games hockey: India beat Pakistan, reach semi-finals

Saturday, November 20, 2010

GUANGZHOU - Drag-flicker Sandeep Singh slotted two goals as India entered the semi-finals of men’s hockey with an emphatic 3-2 victory over Pakistan at the Asian Games here Saturday.

Sandeep (3rd minute, 48th) converted two penalty corners, while Dharamvir Singh (16th) scored one. For Pakistan, veteran strikers Rehan Butt (4th) and Shakeel Abbasi (43rd) were the goal scorers. India led 2-1 at half-time.

The win has catapulted India to the top of group B as they have won all their three matches. Pakistan and Japan are in second place with six points each from three matches. India next face Japan Sunday.

The win completes India’s hat-trick of victories against Pakistan in major tournaments this year, having demolished the arch-rivals in World Cup and last month’s Commonwealth Games.

Though Pakistan stretched themselves to reverse the trend, the Indians showed their new-found resolve to keep them at bay.

It was by no means a clinical performance of the Indians, but they did enough to enjoy an upper hand for the major part of the game.

As expected in an India-Pakistan clash, the two teams began by making fast moves straightway, slamming home a goal each within first four minutes.

Sandeep, who is going through a purple patch, struck a scorching drag flick past Pakistan goalkeeper Salman Akbar.

But India conceded just a minute later, courtsey a smart piece of stickwork from dangerous striker Rehan Butt who after trapping a precise Rizwan Muhammad pass right in front of the goal, gently pushed the ball between his legs as he was unable to find the room to move in the midst of two defenders.

The pace of the game slackened a bit as the two teams recovered from initial burst and focused on making synchronised moves.

The second Indian goal was another smart piece of hockey and it would have certainly made coach Jose Brasa thank the bouncy turf that has borne the brunt of the Spaniard.

An unchallenged Dharamvir, latching onto a pass from the left, took quick strides with ball before Pakistan goalkeeper rushed out. But the Indian immediately tapped the ball on the ground that made it bounce and flew past the custodian into the goal.

Pakistan stepped up the attack and came close to equalise on a few occasions. Muhammad Rizwan’s attempt to equalise was thwarted by Sardar Singh as India kept the lead intact at the breather.

India attacked right from the start in the second half. Twice they had the chance of adding to the tally but Shivendra Singh failed to stop a Tushar Khandekar’s pass. Later, Tushar himself fumbled with the ball and could not do justice to Saravanjit’s solo.

Abbasi scored for Pakistan to draw level, taking advantage of a defensive lapse from Sandeep.

But the Indian drag-flicker made amends within two minutes as another penalty corner came his way. Sandeep made no mistake, making a powerful strike into the goal.

Pakistan once again marshalled their forces for an equaliser and earned their first penalty corner in the 57th minute. But Indian custodian Bharat Chetri brilliantly blocked Sohail Abbas’s strike.

The Indian defence stood up to the challenge to stop Pakistan from scoring while the midfield and the forward line kept the pressure on the opponents with some good moves.

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