This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Number 13 is considered unlucky and for India it seemed like the 13th Asian Games meeting with their arch-rivals Pakistan spelt the doom for them as they went down by the odd goal in a Pool B fixture at the Seonhak Hockey Stadium in Inchoen, Korea. India-Pakistan hockey matches invariably churn out adrenaline-pumping action and it wasn’t any different on Thursday. Quite obviously, supporters of both teams were bubbling over with excitement as this was the first game between them in 2014. Over the years, fans have been imploring for more India-Pakistan hockey matches as they are sure shot crowd-pullers, but thanks to frosty diplomatic ties the scenario is such that India plays their arch-rivals only at neutral venues in multi-nation events.
It was the Greenshirts, who pressed the offensive button from the starting hooter and forced a penalty corner in the sixth minute, but the Indian defence minus injured Rupinder Pal Singh, just about managed to thwart that opportunity. India paid the same coin by creating their first penalty corner, but it was Pakistan’s turn to nullify that set-piece. India showed more purpose in the second quarter after the goalless first quarter as Ramandeep came close to scoring. India frittered away another short corner opportunity, but it seemed that the Blueshirts had control of the proceedings even as both teams took the half-time break with a 0-0 scoreline.
Pakistan reply back stronger
India were pushed on the backfoot when Pakistan took the lead in the third quarter through Umar Muhammad Bhutta. Umar, who score a hat-trick against Sri Lanka in the first game, triggered celebrations in the Green Shirts’ bench with a strike in the 38th minute, thus putting the fightback onus on Sardar Singh’s men.
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India needed to summon desperate measures going into the final quarter trailing 0-1 and Nikkin Thimmaiah breathed a sigh of relief restoring parity in the 53rd minute to raise visions of a honorable draw, but Pakistan were in no mood to play for a draw as they regained the lead a minute later through Waqas Muhammad.
Pushed to the wall, India needed to produce something out of the ordinary, but Pakistan held their nerves to close out a 2-1 win and now look poised to top Pool B and in all probability avoid hosts Korea in the semifinals. India will now have to beat China in their last league tie on Saturday and will in all likelihood face hosts Korea in the semifinal.