Sultan Azlan Shah Cup – India sink Pakistan as Sunil and Manpreet run riot

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Sultan Azlan Shah Cup – India sink Pakistan as Sunil and Manpreet run riot

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Amlan Majumdar

04/12/2016

India defeated arch rivals Pakistan 5-1 in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup at Malaysia to climb up to the second spot in the league table. SV Sunil scored a brace, while Manpreet Singh scored a goal and provided an assist, as India maintained their dominance over their neighbours in recent past.

The match got off to a thrilling start and lived up to the hype that usually surrounds a match between India and Pakistan.

It took India only four minutes to open the scoring as Manpreet Singh, who mourned his father's loss only a few days back, found the back of the net with a thunderous strike. The goal arrived from a fast break with SV Sunil feeding the ball to Manpreet inside the left-hand side of the shooting circle. The 23-year-old swung his stick and generated enough power to beat Imran Butt in the Pakistan goal.

However, Pakistan equalized just three minutes later. Umar Bhutta found the foot of Kothajit Khadangbam and won a penalty corner for Pakistan. Muhammad Irfan's drag flick was charged down by Rupinder Pal Singh, but he conceded another penalty corner while doing so. This time, the Pakistani captain found the bottom corner of the net, as Akash Chikte failed to keep the ball out, despite getting his stick to the ball.

India wrestled back the lead immediately though, with Manpreet at the center of it all once again. India won a free hit outside the circle in the 10th minute, and Manpreet drilled in a dangerous ball into the circle. SV Sunil was at hand to direct it with a delicate deflection, which took the ball past the goalkeeper and made it 2-1.

India continued their domination over the young Pakistani team in the second quarter. Pakistan's defence struggled to deal with the pace and the movement of Manpreet, Danish Mujtaba and SV Sunil in the attack.

In the 18th minute, India created a golden opportunity to double their lead. Manpreet drilled in another of his perilous crosses, and this time Mujtaba was at the end of it. The 27-year-old slid in with his stick to direct the ball goal-wards, however, his shot hit the foot of a Pakistani defender. Rupinder Pal Singh stepped up to take the resultant penalty corner, but Imran Butt kept his team in the game with a fantastic save.

Pakistan came back into the game towards the end of the second quarter, especially with India going down to 10-man for the final five minutes of the half, with the referee awarding a green card to Ramandeep Singh. However, they failed to convert their numerical advantage into a goal, as India held onto their slim lead.

The pace of the match slowed down a bit in the third quarter as India dropped back a bit. However, a green card to Rupinder Singh handed the advantage to Pakistan for a couple of minutes. They piled on the pressure and won a penalty corner in the 38th minute. But Muhammad Irfan's 110 kmph drag flick was charged down by Manpreet Singh, who delivered one of his best performances for India since making it to the senior team.

Just when Pakistan were growing confidence, India made it 3-1 at the other end to seal their fate. Kothajit picked out Nikkin Thimmaiah inside the box with a long ball from the left wing, and the 25-year-old produced the most incredible little flick with his stick which took the ball to the far post, where SV Sunil pounced on it and poked it into the net.

India added two more goals in the fourth quarter as Pakistani captain Muhammad Irfan received a green card. Talwinder Singh scored his second goal in as many games in 50th minute to make it 4-1, while four minutes later, Rupinder Pal Singh converted from a penalty corner to score his team's fifth goal. The defender had another opportunity in the closing stages to add another to his tally, but his penalty stroke was kept out by the Pakistani goalkeeper.

Eventually, the humilation ended for Pakistan when the refree blew the final whistle, and the match ended 5-1. India now have a 5-1 head-to-head record over the neighbours since 2009.

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