Kuantan (23 Oct, 2016): India defeated arch rivals Pakistan 3-2 in a high-profile clash of the QNET 4th Asian Champions Trophy at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium in Kuantan today.
It was India’s 54th victory over Pakistan in this 165th clash between the two nations in hockey since the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Pakistan has won 82 times before and drew in 30 other encounters. The last time India defeated Pakistan was 5-1 at the 25Revth Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, located 420km in the west coach of Malaysia, in April.
The Malaysian juggernaut also continued in the QNET 4th Asian Champions Trophy with a 7-2 victory over Japan and advanced to the semi-finals.
The hosts had earlier dented Pakistan’s hopes with a 4-2 win in Thursday’s opening match and downed China 5-1 to top the table standings with nine points followed by India (7), Pakistan (3), China (3) and Korea (1). Japan is reeling at the bottom of the six-nation event without a win.
Prior to the start of the India-Pakistan match, Australian umpire Murray Grime was honoured for umpiring his 200th senior international game. Asian Hockey Federation Chief Executive Officer, Dato’ Tayyab Ikram, and the Umpires Manager of the QNET Men’s Asian Champions Trophy, Ged Curran presented the award.
India’s youngster Pardeep Mor gave his side a 1-0 lead in a mouth-watering encounter with another display of top flight hockey between the Asian powerhouses, who are known for their flair and skill with the flick.
The Pakistan defence failed to mark Pardeep on the far right corner of the semi-circle as the Indian midfielder lashed on a powerful shot across the line, splitting the defence which also caught goalkeeper Imran Butt off guard.
Two-time champions Pakistan had earlier made a strong start by earning a penalty corner in the very first minute but Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh parried away Muhammad Aleem Bilal’s rising flick much to the joy of an estimated 200 expatriate Indian community in the stadium.
Minutes later Talwinder Singh found space near the Pakistan goalmouth but his shot went inches over the bar.
But the Pakistanis were back at full force and equalised through Muhammad Rizwan Sr in the third quarter with a powerful shot from the top of the semi-circle, leaving Sreejesh completely beaten and Muhammad Irfan Jr increased the lead 2-1 for the first time as more than 100 Pakistan-flag waving fans cheered and celebrated in the stands.
But the celebrations slowly withered away as India pushed to the front with goals from Rupinder Pal Singh in the 43rd minute via penalty corner to draw level 2-2 first and a minute later Ramandeep Singh sealed it for India from an incredible field goal. Pakistan forwards did everything they could in search of the equaliser in the fourth quarter but as fate would have had it India triumphed 3-2 for only the 54th time in history.
“Putting the result aside, it was good vintage hockey from India and Pakistan, good for the fans at the stadium and those back home. We controlled the first half but were very unfortunate not to score as the match progressed.” said Pakistan head coach, Muhammad Khawaja Junaid.
“Pakistan will come out of this and God willing progress into the semi-finals as we must win Japan against and China in our next matches,” he added.
India’s head coach Roelant Oltmans, observed: “It was a great game too today. The defence made mistakes in the second quarter, Pakistan saw this and capitalised. Overall, I believe we can play a far better game and increase our level.”
India defeated Japan10-2 and drew 1-1 against Korea in earlier matches. Pakistan, on the other hand, lost their first match 2-4 against Malaysia and defeated South Korea 1-0 in their second game.
Both teams have been successful in the past Asian Champions Trophy editions, which is being played for the first time after 2013. India won the inaugural 2011 edition of the tournament while Pakistan emerged champions in 2012 and 2013.
The Malaysia Tigers scripted a great show against the Japanese in front of an estimated 2,500 fans with field goals from Nik Aiman Rosemi (23rd), Rashid Baharom (27th), Nabil Fiqri Mohamad Nor (33rd), Faizal Shaari (37th) and Firhan Ashari in the 44th minute.
Fitri Shari made it a memorable evening for the fans by netting the sixth goal and Faizal Shaari returned to score his second and Malaysia’s seventh after the interval from a penalty stoke, adding on to goalkeeper Masahito Kunitomo and Japan’s misery.
Japan replied through Kenji Kitazato (59th) and Kenta Tanaka in the last few seconds before the final hooter.
Malaysia plays high-riding India on Wednesday before wrapping up the round-robin league fixtures on Oct 27 against the Koreans.
“It was a very good match. We started off cautiously and then got our act moving to win 7-2 and get nine points in total. Mathematically we have nine points are almost there in the semi-finals,” said Malaysian head coach Stephen Van Huizen.