Indian hockey team thrashes Pakistan in Champions Trophy opener
India thrashed arch-rivals Pakistan 4-0 to get off to a dream start in the Champions Trophy on Saturday as head coach Harendra Singh’s stint began impressively in Breda, the Netherlands. (Highlights)
Goals from Ramandeep Singh (26th minute), Dilpreet Singh (54th), Mandeep Singh (57th) and Lalit Upadhyay (60th) capped India’s commanding performance, handing them their eighth win in nine games against their neighbours.
Pakistan did not play as poorly as the scoreline suggests but goals in the last six minutes transformed the match statistics.
India were leading 2-0 in the fourth quarter when the team guided by former India coach Roelant Oltmans decided to take off goalkeeper Imran Butt for an extra outfield player in search of goals. The brave but risky move backfired, allowing India to score two more goals in the final four minutes of the game.
This was India’s seventh win in 19 outings over Pakistan in the Champions Trophy with the latter having won 12. This is the final edition of the prestigious tournament, which will be replaced by the Hockey Pro League from 2019.
The contest got off to a sedate start with both teams treading cautiously. There wasn’t much to separate the two teams in the first half with the first quarter ending goalless.
It was only towards the closing stages of the second quarter that Simranjeet Singh and Ramandeep Singh provided a moment of brilliance which resulted in India scoring their first goal.
Simranjeet evaded two defenders to turn around and pass to Ramandeep, who gave the ball the touch it needed to hit the board.
Pakistan launched frantic attacks in the third quarter, repeatedly entering the Indian half. However, their desperation led to some wayward attacks which the solid Indian defence was easily able to thwart.
The most exciting phase of the game came in the last quarter when Pakistan increased their directionless attacks. India seized the moment in the 54th minute, and following a counter-attack, a long ball was beautifully converted by youngster Dilpreet Singh.
In a desperate move, Pakistan took off the goalkeeper to have the 11th outfield player on the field. India forwards grabbed the chance to score two goals in the final minutes to seal the thrashing of Pakistan.
With no one to guard the goal, Mandeep first converted an easy chance following a long pass. Upadhyay then beat the hooter to score India’s final goal after receiving a flick-on from Ramandeep.
India next play Olympic champions Argentina on Sunday.
India have never won the Champions Trophy with their best show having come two years ago in London when they finished runners-up. That performance came under Oltmans.
A solid showing in this premier tournament will help India build-up for the Asian Games, to be held in Indonesia in August-September.