India defeated defending champions Pakistan in their third league match 3-2 today cheered on by a small but raucous crowd. India gave up the lead after the initial goal by Pardeep Mor, but Rupinder Pal Singh and Ramandeep scored in the third quarter to take India to a win over their bitter rivals.
Pakistan started the proceedings earning a penalty corner in the very first minute of the match. They chose to take a second touch on the corner after the initial trap with a pass to Muhammad Aleem catching India by surprise. But, Aleem was slow with his shot allowing Sreejesh to parry it easily. India had another nervous moment in the 4th minute as the defence failed to hold up to the recurrent attacks, but Pakistan failed to find the final touch despite coming to within yards of the goal.
India managed to hold more possession in the next five minutes, but the Blues failed to even penetrate the circle as the forward line looked absolutely out of sorts. Finally, Talwinder Singh managed India’s first real opportunity with a run across the face of the goal before unleashing a powerful backhand flick. Although the ball sailed above the bar, it gave newfound impetus to the Indian attack, and lent voice to the Indian crowd in the stands.
However, both sides failed to score as the first quarter ended 0-0.
After an uneventful four minutes, Pakistan essayed a quick foray into the circle down the left, but Sreejesh was upto the task blocking the shot on target.
India’s lead in the match came out of nowhere in the 22nd minute. India’s attack down the right flank was stopped by the Pakistan last line, but the ball fell into the path of Pardeep Mor, who rushed with it to the baseline and sent a shot towards goal from a narrow angle. The ball hit goalie Imran Butt in the legs and somehow deflected into the boards for the first goal. 1-0.
India went on a great counterattack after clearing the ball off Pakistan’s long corner in the 25th minute, but Ammad Butt dived into the path of Lalit Upadhyay’s marauding run to stop the sally. He, however, received a green card for that goal-saving effort.
Despite the one-man advantage, India could not increase the lead as Ramandeep slipped during a 3 to 1 counter by India to lose the ball, and the Blues went into the half-time leading 1-0.
India had the worst possible start to the second half as Pakistan equalized just 30 seconds into the quarter. The move down the right saw Aleem Bilal cross the ball to Rizwan who managed to run past his marker down the middle of the park, take the ball at the circle, and move in before slamming a low shot into the boards past Sreejesh. 1-1
India had a great chance off a counter in the 34th minute, but Imran Butt made up for his earlier blunder by coming out and clearing it just before Ramandeep could get to the ball unmarked.
Pakistan went up 1-2 in the 39th minute as the Indian defence failed to thwart a simple raid down the left flank. Muhammad Irfan found himself yards from the goal with the ball and noone close enough and scored an easy one at the near post. 1-2
India received a corner after an appeal when Akashdeep’s cross into the circle found the Pakistan defender’s feet. With 2 minutes to go, Rupinder Pal delivered the perfect dragflick. Ramandeep delivered a lovely feinted corner to the man on the right, and Rupinder buried it into the top right of the goal. 2-2 and India were back.
India immediately took the lead with a beautiful counterattack. Off a missed interception that deflected into his path, Talwinder delivered the ball to Ramandeep who stood waiting in front of the goal. Ramandeep made no mistake in sending the ball into the goal to make it 3-2 for India.
India almost made it 4-2 in the second minute of the final quarter, but Imran Butt made a brilliant stop to avert a certain goal for India.
The match went into a long series of uneventful play as India slowed the game down to maintain their slender lead. Pakistan had a half-chance with 5 minutes to go, but Sreejesh parried away the shot at the near post.
With 2 minutes to go, Nikkin Thimmaiah made a good run into the circle and passed the ball to Talwinder Singh, but the final touch went amiss for India.
India finally managed to hold on to their slim lead and win the much-anticipated match against their rivals 3-2.