Defending champs India breathed life into their Azlan Shah hockey campaign with a resounding 4-2 win over rivals Pakistan here Friday.
India opened the scoring in the 26th minute through Sardar Singh to go 1-0 up at half time. Pakistan’s Muhammad Imran converted a penalty stroke to draw level in the 37th minute in the action-packed second half.
India then scored thrice to take a 4-1 lead with goals from Mandeep Antil (47th), Gurbaj Singh (53rd) and Tushar Khandekar (56th minute).
Pakistan pulled back one through Kasif Ali’s drag-flick strike in the 66th minute but it was too little too late.
It was an improved performance by India who wasted five penalty corners and struck in the dying moments to escape with a 1-1 draw against China in their first match.
India, who beat Pakistan in their last meeting at the World Cup in New Delhi, had to win this match to give themselves a chance of qualifying for the semi-finals.
India wasted two penalty corners before Sardar Singh slammed in the rebound off a penalty corner attempt by Dhanajay Mahadik.
Soon after the interval, Pakistan were given a penalty stroke after a goalmouth scramble and Imran placed the ball above the head of goalkeeper P.R Sreejesh.
India then went ahead when Gurbaj Singh’s long pass was deflected in by Antil. “Our mid-field worked well today and it was a brilliant effort led by Gurbaj Singh (Man of the Match) and Arjun Hallapa. Credit is due to the Pakistani side though because it was their SAAF team on the field. It’s good to get a win but lets not get too euphoric right now,” a team official told HT from Malaysia.
Tushar Khandekar, latching onto a pass from Shivender, scored from a solo while two minutes later Gurbaj scored another to make it 4-1.
Pakistan did their best to narrow down the margin and converted a penalty corner. India got two penalty corners towards the end but could not score.
India will take on South Korea on Sunday. “It is our biggest test. The team is concentrating on attacking both flanks of the Korean half and we are studying their gameplay footage,” a team member said.