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Easy win gives Pak series
Biswajyoti Brahma | October 08, 2004 16:45 IST
Drag flicker Sohail Abbas emerged as the highest goalscorer in the world as Pakistan warded off a late resurgence by India to win the Friendship Hockey Series with a clinical 2-1 victory in the penultimate game in Amritsar on Friday.
Going into the match with a 3-1 lead and needing a win to clinch the eight-match series, Pakistan romped home in style to take an unassailable 4-1 lead and render the last rubber in Hyderabad into an inconsequential outing.
India also needed a win in order to keep their hopes alive of levelling the series but were clearly outplayed by their arch-rivals in a match marred by frayed tempers.
Abbas fired the first salvo in the eighth minute to overtake Dutch legend Paul Litjens' record of 267 international goals and give his team a vital 1-0 lead at the break.
Rehan Butt then made it 2-0 in the 47th minute before the Indians fought back to reduce the margin through a penalty stroke by Arjun Halappa a minute later.
Indians made a brave attempt to rally and launched repeated attacks in the fag end of the proceedings, only to be thwarted by an alert Pakistani defence.
The hosts, spurred on by a sizeable crowd at the Guru Nanak Dev University ground, very nearly found the equaliser in the stoppage time but a goalline save by a Pakistani defender ensured that the visitors latched on to the slender lead till the hooter.
The day, however, belonged to Pakistan's 29-year-old penalty corner expert Abbas who erased Litjens' long-standing record with a brilliant hit early in the match.
Abbas, who had equalled the record in the fifth match in Delhi, failed to score in the match in Chandigarh but the veteran of 212 international matches did not take long to achieve the milestone, much to the delight of his team-mates.
The player, who has the distinction of scoring the highest number of goals in a calender year with 60 strikes, is also the fastest to reach both 100 and 200 goals.
The Indians, who had to again take the field without their experienced skipper Dilip Tirkey, lacked the consistency and firepower to pose any serious threat to their more fancied rivals. Tirkey had suffered a hairline fracture resulting from a blow that he took on his chin in the Delhi match and is virtually ruled out of the Hyderabad tie.
Though the home team displayed some flashy moves, they were largely guilty of frittering away the few scoring opportunities that came their way in the must-win match.
Trailing by a solitary goal, the Indians got another jolt when Rehan Butt slammed in following a penalty corner in the 47th minute.
But the Indians regrouped quickly and struck in the very next minute with Halappa converting a penalty stroke, placing the ball on the top right of goalkeeper Salman Akbar.