Defending champion India came from behind twice to hold arch-rival Pakistan to a 3-3 draw in a thrilling opening match of the Sultan of Johor Cup junior men’s hockey tournament here on Friday.
Goals from Amandeep Lakra (30th minute), Aditya Arjun Lalage (56th) and Uttam Singh (59’th) ensured a point for India after Arbaz Ahmad (31st, 58th) and Abdul Shahid (49th) scored for Pakistan.
Both the teams lived up to the billing in the opening match of the tournament, considered as a litmus test for all participating sides ahead of the forthcoming men’s Junior World Cup to be held in Malaysia this December.
The first big scoring opportunity came in the 12th minute but India’s Angad Bir Singh’s shot went across the goal with no one at the far end to tap the ball in.
Despite coming close to scoring multiple times, neither side could finish in most part of the first two quarters. The defending champions finally drew first blood in the 30th minute, seconds before the half-time hooter through drag-flicker Amandeep.
But a minute after the change of ends, Pakistan drew level through a penalty corner conversion by Arbaz Ahmad.
Pakistan managed to build on the equaliser, taking the lead in the 49th minute when its captain Abdul Shahid scored past Indian goalkeeper Mohit.
India pressed hard and secured a penalty corner in the 50th minute, only to be denied by the Pakistan. With five minutes left on the clock, India found another opportunity through another penalty corner and this time Aditya scored from a rebound.
Just under three minutes from the final hooter, Pakistan restored its lead when a penalty corner was well-converted by Arbaz.
With minutes left in the game, Uttam scored a brilliant field goal to save India. India will take on hosts Malaysia on Saturday.
Malaysia missed out on its first win at the Sultan of Johor Cup (SOJC) 2023 under-21 (U-21) hockey tournament after narrowly losing 2-3 to New Zealand at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium.
Down as the hosts, New Zealand first opened the scoring in the sixth minute through a penalty corner goal completed by Luke Aldred.
Stunned by the goal, the Young Tigers squad regrouped and only needed a minute to equalize as a result of national team captain Muhamad Faris Harizan’s explosive stroke penalty.
However, before the end of the first quarter, New Zealand regained the lead thanks to Scott Cosslett’s goal which ended the penalty corner.
In the second quarter, the National Youth Squad increased the tempo of the game to put pressure on New Zealand.
As a result of that pressure, Malaysia managed to rise again to tie the score at 2-2 thanks to a goal by Faris Harizan who completed a penalty corner in the 24th minute.
Entering the third quarter, it was James Hickson’s turn to score as a scorer to put New Zealand back in the lead in the 33rd minute.
The national youth squad managed to create several opportunities to score goals but were denied by the brilliance of New Zealand’s goalkeeper, Luke Elmes.
Starting the fourth quarter, Malaysia increased the intensity of the game forcing New Zealand to defend more in order not to concede when receiving a series of attacks from the hosts.
However, the efforts of the National Youth Squad were unsuccessful in finding an equalizing goal and had to accept the defeat.
“Overall we were a bit unlucky, we failed to at least steal a point in tonight’s game.
“Anyway there are many positive things the players have done throughout the match today and we have to look back and analyze the mistakes we made so that we can improve in the next match, against India tomorrow.
“Regarding penalty corners, we gave a lot to the opposition and we only conceded two and the others we managed to defend as a group.
“So now we can’t allow the opponent to get a penalty corner and that element we need to look at and review to not give more to the opponent,” said head coach Muhamad Amin Rahim.
Tomorrow, Malaysia will face the defending champions, India in the second match of Group B at 8.35pm at Taman Daya Hockey Stadium.