It was billed to be a humdinger. And it lived up to the expectations as India stormed into the semi-finals of the Commonwealth Games beating Pakistan 7-4 in the final Pool A league match here on Sunday. With it, the hosts also equalled their best score against their arch-rivals.
Needing a win, India, led by penalty corner specialist Sandeep Singh, systematically tore apart the Pakistani defence.
Pakistan's star-studded defence, led by custodian Imran Shah, fell on its face in front of almost 25000 supporters and conceded a penalty corner in the 3rd minute itself. Sardara Singh pushed and Sandeep smacked the ball to the top bar for it to bounce its way past Shah.
A penalty corner in the 11th minute saw India doubling their lead when Sandeep again scored, off Sardara's push. Trapping, for a change, was immaculate too.
The third goal came in the 19th minute through Shivendra Singh's field goal which was nothing short of a stunner. Pakistan closed the margin going into the breather when Imran Muhammad capitalised on a penalty stroke. Rizwan Muhammad followed it up with a strike past goalkeeper Bharat Chettri.
The second half saw a rejuvenated India take to the field.
It was 21 year old Danish Mujtaba who opened the account in the second half when his reverse shot left Pakistan's defence looking embarrassingly exposed in the 41st minute.
Hero of the previous match against Scotland, Dharamvir Singh put his name on the scoreline four minutes later. Though Pakistan managed to score two more goals in the ensuing minutes, Dharamvir's strike in the 59th minute drove the final nail in the coffin for Pakistan.
Both coch Jose Brasa and skipper Rajpal Singh were ecstatic after the win but claimed that a medal is their real aim.
“The task is half-done. Qualifying for the semi-final is great and the margin of win is commendable.
“A lot of our strategies worked but some like converting the short corners needs to be brushed up,” said Brasa after the match.
India face England in the semi-final on Tuesday while Australia will take on New Zealand for a place in the final.