Azlan Shah hockey: India’s title hopes crash with 1-3 loss to Pakistan

first_imgDefending champion India’s hopes of retaining the Azlan Shah Cup hockey title virtually ended on Wednesday as they suffered an embarrassing 1-3 defeat against arch-rivals Pakistan in a high-voltage match here.India squandered the lead gained through drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh in the 23rd minute as Pakistan rallied with penalty corner goals from captain Muhammad Imran and Sohail Abbas in successive minutes midway through the second session.India enjoyed an edge in the first half but lost the plot after change of ends with Asian Games gold-medallist Pakistan turning the tide in their favour by dominating the entire second session.Arjun Halappa-led side were unlucky as the referee disallowed a goal early in the match. They also wasted a few open chances in the first session which could have changed the complexion of the game.The loss also snapped India’s four-match winning streak against Pakistan since last year.With the loss today, India, outright winners in 2009 and joint champions with South Korea in 2010, slipped to the fourth spot in the round-robin league standings with seven points from five matches. Pakistan moved up to the third place with nine points in five games.World champions Australia are leading the standings after their 4-2 victory over South Korea today to secure to 10 points in four matches, while Britain are second on nine points from four outings.India have one match remaining — against New Zealand on Thursday, in the round robin league.Each side play six matches in the seven-team competition.The top two sides in the standings after the round-robin league will play in the summit clash on May 15.advertisementIndia had the first shy at the Pakistan goal in the eight minute when Vikas Pillay moved forward on the left flank and sent a diagonal cross to which Mandeep Antil failed to connect in the goalmouth.The Indians almost took the lead in the 14th minute on their first penalty corner but as Dhananjay Mahadik’s shot was blocked by the goalkeeper, but Shivendra Singh sent a stinging reverse from the top of the circle to hit into the boards.Dutch umpire Roderick Wijsmuller first signaled for a goal, but changed the decision after Pakistan team protested for an obstruction.Gurvinder Singh Chandi missed a sitter in the 20th minute when he failed to push in S V Sunil’s pass into an open goal, but penalty corner shooter Rupinder Singh put India ahead in the 23rd minute by sending a deft drag-flick into the cage.Rupinder, who made a huge impact in the tournament after finding a place in the squad due to absence of ace penalty corner taker Sandeep Singh, gave the lead with his sixth goal of the tournament but India failed to add any more.After India’s complete domination in the initial stages, Pakistan earned their first penalty corner in the 25th minute, only for Sohail Abbas to shoot wide to the left.Soon after, Mohammad Rizwan Senior sent in a diagonal cross from the right, but there were no strikers in front of Indian goal to capitalise on it.India forced another penalty corner in the last minute before half-time, but this time Rupinder’s soaring drag-flick was cleared by goalkeeper Imran Shah for a corner.Going into the second half with a 1-0 lead, the Indian citadel came under pressure on two occasions within four minutes. Indian goalkeeper Adrian D’Souza charged out to thwart Rehan Butt in the 38th minute when the unmarked striker got the ball in a one-on-one situation with the custodian.A minute later, Shakeel Abbasi sent a flick high over the cross-piece after darting in from the right flank.Rupinder made a fine clearance from under Rehan’s stick as he shaped to take a close-range shot at the goal in the 41st minute, but the pressure exerted by Pakistan was too much and in the 49th minute, Umar Bhutta scored the equaliser after getting Fareed Ahmed’s pass from left.Pakistan seized control of the match midway through the second session with two penalty corner conversions in two minutes.Captain Muhammad Imran beat the Indian defence with a drag-flick that went into the cage to the right of the goalkeeper in the 56th minute and Sohail Abbas made it 3-1 a minute later with a similar drag-flick into the net.India made some desperate efforts to bounce back into the game, but their moves failed to produce results against the experienced Pakistan team, which featured most members of the Guangzhou Asian Games gold winning squad.advertisementSeeking to prepare their team ahead of the Champions Trophy and the Olympic Qualifier, India have fielded a young team without several top senior players who are injured or were not considered for selection after not turning up for the preparatory camp.- With PTI inputslast_img

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