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India go down to Pakistan
December 08, 2004 18:14 IST
Last Updated: December 08, 2004 18:22 IST
Sohail Abbas scripted yet another record and guided Pakistan to a 2-1 win over arch-rivals India in their crucial league match in the Champions Trophy hockey tournament in Lahore on Wednesday.
The ace drag-flicker, coming to the match just one goal short of erasing Australian Mark Hagger's Champions Trophy record of 32 goals, slammed home from a penalty stroke in the 67th minute as Pakistan won the thrilling encounter at the National Stadium.
The margin of defeat may appear thin but Pakistan was obviously a much better side in the contest and could have won by a much bigger score had they converted even half of the chances that came their way.
Saqlain Muhammed's 32nd minute strike was neutralised by India through Sandeep Singh in the 58th minute, but Abbas put the finishing touch to the match by scoring at a time when it looked like the game was heading for a draw. It was the star player's fifth goal in the tournament.
Goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza was the saving grace for the Indians by coming up with a fine performance under the bar but his attempts were not enough as India crashed to their third defeat from four matches.
The loss also seriously affected India's chances of playing for the 3-4 places as Pakistan took themselves a step closer for a berth in the final.
Pakistan played better in the first half as they tested the Indian defence a number of times. The Indians, though made a few inroads but never got a chance to probe Salman Akbar as most of the moves fizzled out inside the circle or just outside it.
Rehan Butt, struggling to get back into his goal scoring form, was the first to have a go at the Indian post as early as in the sixth minute but his reverse flick went over bar much to the disappointment of the home supporters.
Backed by thousands in the stands, the Pakistanis made further moves - most of them led by winger Shabbir Ahmed from the left, but they failed to capitalise on them mainly due to some good show by goalkeeper D'Souza, defender Dilip Tirkey and a few poor finishing.
Pakistan, who had paid through their nose in the match against Holland on Tuesday for squandering a number of scoring opportunities, failed to make much amends with Rehan Butt and Shabbir Ahmed being the main culprit.
With the large crowd, probably the biggest in the competition so far, getting restless with Pakistan failing time and again to take the lead, Saqlain Muhammed slammed home.
Exploiting a little space inside the Indian circle, Saqlain, who got a cross from the right, slammed home as the crowd erupted to celebrate the first goal by the home side.
Pakistan's attacking approach earned them a couple of penalty corners in the first half but Sohail Abbas failed to put them in.
On both the occasions, D'Souza charged out to foil Pakistan's attempts with superb saves.
D'Souza who seemed to have found a way out to counter Abbas' deadly drag-flicks, cautioned for charging out too early when the Pakistanis were getting ready to take the penalty corners.
But that failed to dampen his spirit as he continued to show tremendous reflexes throughout the game.
After staying on the back foot for long, India tried to break the shackles by coming up with some good moves but they lacked the sting to go past the Pakistani defence.
Pakistan went to the break with a 1-0 lead but resumed with more teeth to their attack which was evident in the very first minute of the second half.
A long run followed by a cross into the circle gave Pakistan the perfect chance to swell the lead, but Shakeel Abbasi failed to put the ball in. Soon after Rehan got a chance to give Pakistan a firm grip on the match, but the beleaguered forward, who had only D'Souza to beat, hit the ball wide.
India must consider themselves lucky enough not to concede any more goals for the most part of the match for directionless attempts by the rival strikers, but they must thank their captain Dilip Tirkey and D'Souza for putting up a strong defence.
Pakistan came close to take the lead when they got a couple of penalty corners more in the 59th minute, but their attempt from a variation did not work while Abbas hit the other wide.
The last few minutes saw a lot of drama as Pakistan won a penalty stroke which was converted by Abbas to make the record his own and even though India tried hard to level the score they could not.