The Indian men’s hockey team came from a goal down to defeat Pakistan 3-1 in their second Asian Champions Trophy match in Muscat on Saturday, 20 October.
India were helped by some moments of individual brilliance from captain Manpreet Singh, who was also awarded the ‘Man of the Match’, and forward Mandeep Singh, as the two scored in the 24th and 31st minutes respectively to turn the match around after Pakistan’s Muhammad Irfan Jr had scored in the 1st minute to give Pakistan the lead. India were then helped by Dilpreet Singh’s convincing strike in the 42nd minute which secured the three points.
World No 5 India went into the match with a 10-match unbeaten streak against Pakistan. However, it was the World No 13 side who started the match with a good rhythm as they attacked the Indians from the opening minute, creating pressure on the Indian defence.
It was a quick start for the Pakistanis as they won a penalty corner in the first minute and managed to score through Muhammad Irfan Jr who was the quickest to react after Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh had made a save off the PC execution. The goal came as a setback for the Indian team but they did manage to regain control in the next few minutes, keeping possession and trying to open up the Pakistani defence through darting runs from the baseline. It was a tactic that worked for the Indians as they created a few opportunities with their midfield and forwards players getting involved and also winning a couple of Penalty Corners. But the Pakistani defence held on in the opening quarter to take their one-goal advantage into the two-minute break.
India tried to look for the equalising goal in the second quarter, but the World No 5 struggled to create any chances in the opening few minutes as they could not find the final pass inside Pakistan’s striking circle. But it was a moment of magic from the Captain Manpreet Singh which saw India finally get their equaliser as the Midfielder showcased individual brilliance to score in the 24th minute. Manpreet created pressure on his opponent and won possession just inside Pakistan’s half, making a marauding run into the striking circle and beating three defenders in the process to finish the move all by himself as he stroked the ball into the far-post to revive India’s spirits. Both the teams had a couple of chances in the closing stages of the second period, but neither could manage to convert as the teams went into the half-time break level at 1-1.
Mandeep Singh then gave India a 2-1 lead by scoring in the 31st minute. Akashdeep Singh made a darting run into the striking circle and passed the ball to fellow striker Mandeep, who found himself with his back to goal but produced majestic skills to keep possession and flick the ball between his own legs to surprise everyone, and score past Pakistani goalkeeper Imran Butt.
India had a good third quarter as they denied their arch-rivals in making many circle entries and then extended their lead to two-goals as Dilpreet Singh scored his fourth of the tournament to put India 3-1 ahead. The crucial goal came in the 42nd minute as India attacked their opponents through a quick counter-attack which was led by Akashdeep Singh, who showed his pace to run beyond the Pakistani midfielders and then find Lalit Upadhyay on the right flank. Lalit then moved forward towards the baseline and struck a hard low shot towards goal, which was padded by Imran Butt into the path of Dilpreet Singh, who produced a calm finish.
The Indian team maintained their high pressure play in the last quarter as they looked to win the ball back as soon as they lost possession and won the 50-50 battles to make sure that Pakistan could not have chances to make their way into the match. Young goalkeeper Krishan Bahadur Pathak, who replaced the milestone-man PR Sreejesh in goal in the last quarter, made a good interception in the last few minutes to help India maintain their strong hold on the match.
India had chances of their own as goal-scorers Mandeep Singh and Dilpreet Singh had opportunities to extend India’s lead even further, but neither could manage to score again. India managed the game well in the closing stages as they maintained their intensity and saw themselves come from a goal-down to beat Pakistan 3-1.
The Indian men’s hockey team will play their third round robin match against Japan at 22.40hrs IST on 21 October 2018.
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