The Indian hockey team bounced back in style to stay alive in the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament as the Sardar Singh-led side thrashed arch-rivals Pakistan 5-1 in a round-robin league match here today. With the win, India kept themselves in the hunt for the bronze medal while Pakistan have virtually been knocked out of the tournament.
Five-time winners India finished with the bronze last year and have now won three out of their four encounters in the tournament, beating Japan (2-1), Canada (3-1) and Pakistan. India got off to a good start as Manpreet Singh slammed into the nets with a stunning reverse hit from the left in the fourth minute to make it 1-0. But three minutes later, Pakistani skipper Muhammad Irfan brought up the equalizer as he converted his team’s second penalty corner to make it 1-1.
India then took the lead again in the 10th minute as SV Sunil got the faintest of deflections after Manpreet Singh drilled in a sizzling shot into the D to make it 2-1 by the end of the first quarter. The second quarter, however, went goalless as India failed to convert its penalty corner chances. Pakistan tried to fight back aggressively in the third quarter but had little success with India thwarting a lot of their attacks. Nikkin Thimmaiah made a glorious run but couldn’t convert. Shortly after that, Ramandeep Singh was handed a yellow card and Pakistan sensed a way back in the contest.
India survived the half. The fourth quarter started and the wheels began to come off for the Pakistan side, whose defense where in tatters. Sunil got his second and India had some breathing space. A neat pass from the flanks was converted by a diving effort from Sunil. Pakistan looked tired and had virtually given up.
Talwinder Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh added a couple in the final stages to add gloss on the scoreline. Pakistan had given up after the third quarter and it cost them dear in the final stages. It was quite an even battle for the first three quarters. Eventually, it was India all the way as they virtually knocked out the arch-rivals with a 5-1 thrashing.