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India advance to the final
June 07, 2003 11:54 IST
India conceded two goals in the last 15 minutes and were held 4-4 by Pakistan in a volatile match in the Hockey Australia Men's Challenge in Sydney on Saturday.
Nevertheless, the Indians snatched a place in the final of the tournament, edging out Pakistan by a point.
Australia topped the three-team league. India finished second with two points after draws with Australia (3-3) and Pakistan (4-4) while Pakistan were third, having lost to Australia 4-3.
In Sunday's final, India will be looking to avenge the defeat they suffered against Australia in the first-leg at Perth, when two late goals gave the hosts a 2-1 victory.
India, who had beaten Pakistan in the first-leg of the tournament in Perth last week, held ascendancy in the first-half and deservedly established a 3-1 lead by half-time. But the suspension of former India captain Baljit Singh Dhillon, who received a red card in the 40th minute following an exchange of blows with Pakistan's Ali Raza saw the match sway Pakistan's way.
The high tension match between the arch-rivals saw India take the lead within six minutes when Dhillon first converted a penalty-stroke. Seconds later he made it 2-0 with a field goal.
But Ali Raza converted a penalty-corner in the 10th minute to reduce the margin.
The Indians continuted to probe the Pakistan defence but with little success till their speedy striker Prabhjot Singh capitalised on a half chance to score in a flash in the 30th minute.
In the second session, the Pakistanis were more forceful. Even before the Indian defence could settle down Mohammad Saqlain pulled one back for Pakistan in the 39th minute with a solo effort as the Indians were guilty of ball watching.
This goal set up a charged atmosphere and soon after the restart, Dhillon and Raza got engaged in a brawl after battling for possession. Dhillon was ejected from the field, which meant India had to play the remainder of the half with ten men.
Indeed it was difficult for them after Jugraj Singh converted a penalty-corner in the 54th minute to make the score 4-2 as the Pakistanis threw everything into attack in a bid to salvage some pride.
Kashif Jawad scored in the 54th minute and then Shabbir Hussain made it 4-4 in the 60th to put the Pakistanis on level terms.
It looked as if the Pakistanis would clinch the match this time after having scored two quick goals but the Indian defence held on admirably to come out with a creditable draw.
India coach Rajinder Singh said his boys played into the Pakistanis' hands by getting "provoked" after being 3-1 up.
"We needlessly lost Dhillon. It's very hard to play with 10 players against a team like Pakistan. They took advantage of the situation," he said.
But Rajinder was all prasie for his forwards. "Our forwards played very well today; that's why we could score four goals.
"After leading 3-1 at half-time we should have scored more goals but it is unfortunate that Dhillon got the red card. That enabled them to score. But we held the upper hand for much of the match," he said.
Rajinder said he would like to see his boys beat Australia in the final on Sunday and finish on a winning note.
In the second match of the day, Australia and Australia 'A' played out a rousing 3-3 draw.
Adam Commens (25th minute) and Jamie Dwyer (47th and 57th) scored for Australia while Seyi Onitiri (29th minute - pc), Grant Schubert (52nd - penalty-stroke and 65th - field goal) scored for Australia 'A'.