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India go down to Pakistan
September 24, 2004 19:35 IST
A depleted India blew away a third minute lead to go down 1-2 against arch-rivals Pakistan in the first of the four-Test hockey series in Karachi on Friday.
The Test, first between the arch-rivals in five years, failed to live upto expectations as both the sides played lacklustre hockey, much to the disappointment of the fans who had thronged the stadium with the hope of witnessing a thriller between the traditional rivals.
India, playing without the services of several regulars including Dhanraj Pillay and Gagan Ajit Singh, raised hopes of an upset win against their more fancied opponents when Arjun Halappa gave them the lead in the third minute.
But ace penalty corner expert Sohail Abbas neutralised the lead in the 17th minute before Rehan Butt's stunning goal in the 26th extended Pakistan's domination over India in recent times.
India have lost all the seven matches they have played against Pakistan this year.
The match hardly had any intensity, generally associated with Indo-Pak clashes, but that could be attributed to the absence of several players in the Indian ranks.
Both sides played cautiously for most part of the match without getting into the attacking mode and it ensured that the match progressed at a dull pace.
India paid the price for being too defensive in their approach as they could trouble the Pakistan defence on a very few occasions -- just twice in the first half and a couple of times more in the second.
They also seemed to have learned too little from their poor show in the Olympic Games, where they finished seventh, as they kept on making the same mistakes that they committed in Athens.
Struggling to play as a unit, they were guilty of making wrong passes, poor trapping and faulty clearances.
India must consider themselves lucky not to have conceded more than a couple of goals in the first half as their more fancied opponents missed several opportunities including three penalty corners during the period.
After scoring from the first penalty corner, Sohail Abbas missed the next three with goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza doing a good job and just minutes before the break, Shabbir Hussain and Kashif Jawad missed sitters, both hitting off target.
The Indians, particularly teenager D'Souza, did well to deny Sohail Abbas in the first half but then they allowed the Pakistan forwards to make repeated inroads into their defence.
The Indian forwards, with too little international experience, also could not rise to the occasion, failing to play in combination. Barring the time they took the lead early on, they hardly tested Pakistan goalkeeper Salman Akbar.
The Test got off to a rousing start when the raw Indian forwards earned a penalty corner from which Halappa converted off a rebound, stunning the crowd.
But the visitors failed to carry on from there as the Pakistanis regrouped themselves and pressed hard for the equaliser.
After several attempts, Abbas drew parity through his trademark drag flick that beat D'Souza all ends up before hitting the top left of the net.
Butt's juggling act inside the Indian circle before a brilliant one-handed tap into the box sent the crowd on their feet and the Indians into a shell.
India made a mess of the second penalty corner they got a few minutes later when Vivek Gupta could not stop the push from Sandeep Michael properly.
The visitors were slightly better after the break as they made at least three good counter-attacks in the first 10 minutes into the half. But all those attacks fizzled out near the Pakistani post.
The two teams will now travel to Quetta for the second Test on September 27.