Saturday, December 13, 2014

Spunky India lose 3-4 to Pakistan, to play Australia for bronze

This piece was published in Sportskeeda
It was a contest where no quarter was given and no quarter was asked for. India-Pakistan hockey matches are invariably like that. On Saturday, the Kalinga Stadium crowd in Bhubaneshwar witnessed another intriguing tussle.
India rebounded twice after being 1-2 down and 2-3 down, but in the end succumbed to the resilence of Pakistan, who rode on an Irfan Muhammed late goal to seal their berth in the Champions Trophy final where thety face Olympi champions Germany on Sunday. It was the second time on the trot that Pakistan had beaten India in a Champions Trophy semifinal – at the 2012 edition in Melbourne India had lost 2-3 to settle for the fourth spot.

In fact, it was Pakistan who looked menacing in the early stages – they drew two splendid saves from Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh.

India slowly settled down into some kind of rhythm and forced their first penalty corner in the 10th minute. Gurjinder Singh slammed home to trigger wild celebrations among the home crowd. The Blueshirts made a hash of the slender goal advantage when Gurbaj Singh was yellow-carded for a tough tackle on a Pakistan player. The Greenshirts tried to make the most of the numerical superiority forcing their first penalty corner on the stroke of half-time.
Fortunately for India, Pakistan could not get that in as the Muhammed Imran tried the indirect route and Muhammed Rizwan Senior deflected wide.

Pakistan pulled all stops in the second quarter and equalized through Arslan Qadir in the 16th minute as silence enveloped the Stadium – it ensured they took full advantage of the fact that the home side were one man short.
SV Sunil orchestrated a fine move on the right and created his team’s second penalty corner in the 21st minute, but Rupinder Pal Singh’s drag-flick was parried away by Imran Butt. Sunil was in sublime form creating several threatening moves, and was fouled by Irfan Muhammed which led to the latter being yellow-carded – it meant both sides lost their video referral in the first half itself.
Like the start of the second quarter, Pakistan commenced the third quarter with a bang as Muhammed Waqas gave his side a 2-1 lead.

India summoned desperate measures in search of the equalizer, and forced two back-to-back penalty corners, but on both occasions Pakistan thwarted those attempts.
The Sardar Singh-led side brought the crowd alive as Akashdeep Singh created a crafty move from the right and fed Dharamvir Singh, whose backhanded broke Imran Butt all ends up.
Pakistan took the lead for the second time in the match when Irfan Muhammed converted a short corner in the 49th minute.
There was more twist in the tale when Nikkin Thimmaiah made it 3-3 in the 52nd minute off a razor-sharp Gurbaj Singh cross.
The hopes of the home side were killed off by Arslan Qadir who scored in the dying moments to give Pakistan a 4-3 win.
India will now play world champions Australia in the bronze medal play-off on Sunday.

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