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Gagan scores twice as India down Pakistan
October 27, 2003 20:57 IST
Last Updated: October 28, 2003 09:09 IST
India awoke from a brief slumber in the first-half and scored thrice in the second to beat arch-rivals Pakistan 4-2 in their concluding Group B league match in the hockey tournament at the Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabd on Monday.
The victory gave the hosts the top place in the group, ahead of Pakistan, and set up a semi-final meeting with Malaysia, who finished second in Group A, behind South Korea.
In earlier matches of the day, Korea beat Malaysia 2-1 and South Africa routed Ghana 5-0 in Group A, while in Group B, Egypt defeated Nigeria 4-2.
Matches between India and Pakistan are always nerve-racking. Today's was no different as both teams set up a hot pace from the outset. India held a slight edge for much of the first-half, when they forged ahead in the 24th minute. But complacency in the dying minutes of that period saw them concede two soft goals in as many minutes and go into the breather a goal in arrears.
India deservedly scored first in the 24th minute when Sandeep Michael showed fine opportunism. The young striker, who has come to India's rescue on many an occasion by scoring from the faintest of chances, charged into the circle to deflect a reverse hit from Ignace Tirkey just as a Pakistan defender got poised to clear the ball on the goal line.
But the Pakistanis came back strongly after that reverse and piled pressure on the Indian defence. They were rewarded for their efforts in the 34th minute. The Indian defence was caught napping as it allowed a harmless-looking cross from the right by Pakistan captain Mohammad Nadeem to travel unchecked across their circle. Salim Khalid, who ran down the left, did well to trap the ball at the top of the circle and dispatch a stiff reverse hit which left goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan standing.
A minute later, as the session moved into stoppage time, the Indians conceded another soft goal. This time a corner hit was allowed to travel across the circle to an unmarked Tariq Imran, who trapped the ball and sent it crashing between the feet of an advancing Chauhan.
The Indians came back strongly after the breather and struck twice in two minutes. They restored parity within five minutes through Prabhjot Singh following a free-hit in the 40th minute and then went ahead with a gem of a goal by Gagan Ajit Singh in the 42nd minute.
The junior India World Cup-winning captain received a long pass from Kanwalpreet Singh, ran into the circle and reverse hit into goal.
Pakistan had a chance to draw level four minutes from time when they were awarded a penalty-stroke, but Gazzanfar Ali had the mortification of seeing the crossbar come in the way of his push.
Minutes into injury time, Gagan Ajit put the issue beyond doubt, beating two defenders with a good dribble and slamming the ball home.
Almost at the call of time, Gazzanfar Ali was unlucky again as the crossbar stood in his way from Pakistan's fourth penalty-corner.
It was the seventh meeting between the Asian giants this year. India had won three and Pakistan two, while one match ended in a draw.
The two arch rivals met twice in the Hockey Australia Men's Challenge in May-June. In the first leg at Perth, India beat Pakistan 2-0 while in second at Sydney, the match ended in a 4-4 draw.
At the Champion's Trophy, in the league match, India defeated Pakistan 7-4, but lost in the bronze medal play-off match 3-4.
At the Asia Cup, in the league match, Pakistan defeated India 4-2, but India thrashed Pakistan 4-2 in the final to win the tournament for the first time.
In the juniors too, India leads Pakistan this year. In a six-nation hockey tournament in Poland, India defeated Pakistan 5-0.