Pakistan’s hopes of winning a medal at the 25th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament ended with a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of arch-rivals India in Ioph, Malaysia yesterday.
The defeat was Pakistan’s biggest against India since their 5-1 defeat in the 2010 South Asian Games.
Greenshirts’ third defeat in a row, followed by losses to New Zealand and Australia, means they now sit sixth with only win. India, on the other hand, are primed to reach the final after moving into second.
Greenshirts brace for India challenge in Malaysia
Such was India’s dominance that the emphatic scoreline could have been much worse had they been more clinical, with Pakistan spending most of the time parked inside their own half.
Team manager Hanif Khan admitted the defeat was a bitter pill to swallow but pointed out that the team is still in a re-building phase.
“We were a force to be reckoned with once, but in the last decade our performances have dipped,” he said. “However, we are taking the positives from this defeat. The players are the best from Pakistan and for the next match, we will push them and train them hard.”
Turning a corner
Head coach Muhammad Khawaja Junaid was a bit more critical, saying that the players had recently defeated India in India in the final of this year’s Asia Cup and should therefore not have an excuse for the thumping. “They defeated India in a more difficult situation in their own home ground,” he said. “This shouldn’t have been a problem for them but they committed a lot of mistakes.”
However, he was also eager to look towards the future rather than dwell too much on the past. “We will be preparing them for the next two matches which are against minnows Japan and hosts Malaysia,” he said. “The youngsters need to learn from this match and we will show them their weak areas.”
India were quickly out of the blocks and opened the scoring in just the fourth minute when Manpreet Singh’s strike from an acute angle had Imran Butt well beaten. Just three minutes later, Pakistan equalised through skipper Muhammad Irfan Senior.
But India snatched back the lead in the 10th minute through a Sunil Somwarpet field goal. Goalkeeper Butt then kept Pakistan in the game as he pulled off a brilliant stop from Rupinder Pal Singh’s rising hit.
In the 41st minute, Somwarpet picked up his second through a field goal to double India’s lead before Talwinder Singh made it 4-1 in the 50th minute.
Pakistan went on the attack looking for a consolation goal but that left them exposed as the Indian defence stood firm. Rupinder soon made it 5-1 but India coach Roelant Oltmans said afterwards that the result could have been even more stark had Rupinder converted earlier and India’s goal in the 52nd minute not been disallowed.
“We defended well, mixed our variations and tried to keep them away from our circle,” Oltmans said at the pre-match conference. “There is always room for improvement and we always take one match at a time.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2016.
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