KARACHI/ BHUBANESWAR: Pakistan cruised into the final of the Hero Hockey Champions Trophy by edging past arch-rivals India 4-3 in a thrilling semi-final match at the Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar in India on Saturday, maintaining their 100% record of never losing to India in the Champions Trophy.
Pakistan, who beat the Netherlands 4-2 in the quarter-final, were 1-0 down when Gurjinder Singh opened scoring with a well-converted penalty corner in the 12th minute of the first quarter.
Pakistan came back strong in the second quarter and equalised, courtesy of Muhammad Arsalan Qadir’s goal in the 17th minute.
Muhammad Waqas then put Pakistan ahead with a goal in the 32nd minute just after the half-time break.
Dharamvir Singh brought the Indians back in the game with an equaliser in the 38th minute; however, Pakistan’s Muhammad Irfan put them in lead with a 44th-minute goal.
Pakistan’s 3-2 lead was short-lived as Chandanda Thimmaiah scored in the 45th minute to bring India back on equal terms.
The match came down to the wire and in the 59th minute, Arsalan found himself in the penalty box and after making a swift turn chipped it over the keeper for the winner.
The Indian assault began to pressurise Pakistan in the final minute of the game, but the Greenshirts contained the hosts and were jubilant as the referee brought the game to an end.
Pakistan’s former player Qasim Zia, who had scored goals against India in the 1982 and 1986 Champions Trophy knock-out stages, was impressed by the young team’s performance.
“The young players played really well, I congratulate them and the nation for a long-awaited victory against a strong team and arch-rivals India,” said Zia. “The way they won was really thrilling. The match could not have been more exciting.”
Rehan Butt, who scored two goals in the 2002 Champions Trophy against India, added, “The match reminded me of the match we played back in 2002 when Mudassar Ali and I scored two goals each to defeat India.”
“I’m happy that Pakistan have maintained the record of not losing any semi-final match against India in the Champions Trophy.”
“Everyone is excited as we have beaten India on their home ground where everything was in their support; the crowd, ground, music, cheering and even umpires gave some decisions against us,” said goalkeeper Imran Butt while talking to The Express Tribune from India. “But we overcame all difficulties and defeated them.”
Meanwhile, captain Muhammad Imran said it was a proud moment for the team and the nation.
“We’ve qualified for the final after a gap of 16 years,” he said. “Now we will display our full potential to win the final on Sunday [today].”
Post-match behavior of Pakistani players questioned
As the final hooter sounded, excited Pakistani players hugged each other, took off their shirts and waved them towards disappointed spectators in the stand.
Coach Shahnaz later walked out of the post-match press conference without answering questions after an Indian reporter persisted about the behaviour of Pakistani players after the game.
In a statement issued by tournament director Wiert Doyer, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) said Shahnaz had apologised for his team's rude gestures towards the crowd.
"I have spoken to Shahnaz and told him that the behaviour of Pakistan players went beyond what is acceptable to standards of the FIH," Doyer was quoted as saying in the statement.
"Shahnaz has apologised and assured me that this behaviour will not occur again."
Germany end Australia’s Champions Trophy reign
Olympic gold medallists Germany quashed Australia’s bid to win a sixth successive Champions Trophy field hockey title, ousting the side 3-2 in the semi-final yesterday.
The Germans, playing with seven junior World Cup winners of 2013, stunned the Kookaburras with two goals by the ninth minute through Timur Oruz and Mats Grambusch.
They went up 3-0 immediately after half-time when Florian Fuchs took advantage of a goalmouth scramble and scooped the ball past Australian goalkeeper Andrew Charter.
Australia hit back in the 34th minute as Chris Ciriello banged in a penalty corner to net his fourth goal in the tournament. Nicholas Budgeon narrowed the margin further in the 42nd by scoring off a penalty corner rebound. Australia, who lost to Germany 4-2 the last time they met in the semi-finals of the 2012 London Olympics, failed to equalise despite benching the goalkeeper to accommodate an extra striker.
Pakistan will now face Germany in the final today, while Australia and India will play each other for the third place.
Watch a slideshow of pictures from Saturday's match here.
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