A spectacular goal by Sunil Sowmarpet a minute from the hooter gave India a 2-1 victory over Pakistan and a faint hope of making the final of the Azlan Shah Gold Cup hockey tournament here on Thursday.
India, who began losing to New Zealand 1-5, beat Korea 2-1, lost to Britain 2-3 and beat Malaysia 3-2 before losing to Argentina 2-3 to finish with nine points from six matches after Thursday’s victory.
India owe their victory as much to their skipper Bharat Chhetri who came up with a sterling performance in the goal, repeatedly thwarting his Pakistani attackers.
In the last league game, India utilised the limited opportunities they got whereas the Pakistanis, despite dominating play for long stretches, could only convert one of their seven penalty corners.
India took lead
India went ahead in the 30th minute and half an hour later Pakistan skipper Sohail Abbas at last could beat skipper Bharat Chhetri in the goal to make it 1-1.
And with the clock ticking away, Sunil went sprawling to sweep home the winner reaching a Sardar Singh long ball.
If India have to make the final, it will be by a long shot as the results of two of the three remaining games on the last day of the league phase Friday must produce results favourable for them. India have scored 12 goals but conceded 15 for a minus three goal difference.
India are now level at nine points with Argentina, who will have to lose their last match to Malaysia by a two-goal margin to keep them in the hunt. If Argentina win their last match they will make the final against New Zealand.
Kiwis in strong
New Zealand are as good as through with 12 points from five matches and their last match Friday against Korea is an inconsequential game for both the teams. New Zealand struck 18 goals and conceded only eight while Korea have five points from five matches.
The other team that can upstage India will be Britain who, with eight points after their 1-1 draw with Korea Thursday, have a must-win match against Pakistan on Friday.
Britain will be through if they win and Argentina lose their match. In any case, India look good for a podium finish.