Malaysia: Forward S.V. Sunil scored two crucial goals as India’s hockey team outclassed traditional rivals Pakistan 5-1 to move to the second spot in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup here on Tuesday.
After Manpreet Singh’s fourth minute field goal was equalised by Muhammad Irfan’s flick in the seventh minute, S.V. Sunil scored twice in the 10th and 41st minutes to make it 3-1.
Later, Talwinder Singh scored a field goal in the 50th minute, while Rupinder Pal Singh’s goal from a penalty corner gave India the 5-1 win.
Rupinder’s penalty stroke miss was probably the only blip on the Indian side coached by Roelant Oltmans.
With this win, India moved to the second spot with nine points from four games, while Pakistan remain on the sixth spot with three points from four matches.
New Zealand, who lost to Australia and gave their trans-Tasman neighbours a fourth straight win from as many games earlier in the day, dropped to the third position with eight points.
Veteran Jamie Dwyer’s 22nd minute strike gave table-toppers Australia a 1-0 win over defending champions New Zealand, who must now beat India in their final group match on Wednesday and hope that their other rivals falter in their upcoming matches. India play their final match against Malaysia on Friday.
The top two teams will automatically qualify for the final, while the third and fourth ranked teams play the bronze medal match after the conclusion of the round-robin competition.
India, coming into the match with three insipid performances, needed a win over their eternal rivals. And in such a match the start is important and India did just that, aided by Sunil’s pace.
The 26-year-old’s speed helped him race from the centre of the pitch to the rival circle in a flash. The Karnataka winger then passed the ball to his left to Manpreet, who fired a reverse-flick, beating goalkeeper Imran Butt who remained stranded on the near post in the fourth minute.
Pakistan responded strongly three minutes later by earning a penalty corner. The hit was blocked illegally and in the second attempt, Irfan’s 104 km/ph flick managed to beat a diving goalkeeper Akash Chitke on his right.
India’s reaction to the goal was quick. In the 10th minute, Manpreet was back in the thick of things as he drilled the ball into the Pakistan goal from the right that was deflected home from a point blank range by Sunil to make it 2-1.
The exhilarating first quarter meant that the crowd expected another fiery show in the next 15 minutes. But the second quarter was bereft of clear-cut chances. India got a chance to go 3-1 up but the variation tactic in executing a penalty corner went awry as it ended 2-1 in favour of India at the break.
India continued with the momentum even though Pakistan threatened early after the break. However, Sunil delivered a crucial goal at the important juncture. After receiving a pass from Kothajit Singh, Nikkin Thimmaiah squared pass for Sunil, who was lurking in front of the goal at the far post, to tap in with a diving effort.
This two-goal cushion was enough to deflate the defensive structure of Pakistan and it played into the hands of the Indians.
Talwinder drove a ball home in a goal-melee in the 50th minute that almost sealed the game in India’s favour. However, more drama was still in store as Rupinder stepped up to convert a penalty corner and later missed a penalty stroke to deny India a 6-1 win.