India overcame first half jitters to score a 2-1 victory over arch-rivals Pakistan in a nail-biting league match and qualify for the final of the Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament here.
Rupinder Pal Singh (36th minute) and Chinglensana (51st) struck for India while Pakistan’s lone goal came from the stick of Mohd Waqas (57th) at Al Rayyan Stadium last night.
The victory over Pakistan was India’s fourth on the trot in the six-team tournament after they had comprehensively beaten China (4-0), Japan (3-1) and Oman (11-0) respectively in their earlier round robin league matches.
India play Malaysia in their last league match on Wednesday.
They are on top of league table with 12 points while Pakistan and Malaysia are both on seven points after four matches each.
After a barren first half, the game came alive soon after the interval. Youngster Danish Mujtafa sprinted past a host of defenders and entered the circle but was stick-checked by Pakistan defender in front of the goal, leading to Malaysian umpire Lingam Karuppusamy signal the only penalty stroke of the match just a minute into the second session.
Rupinder Pal Singh converted it for the first goal of the hotly-fought match (1-0).
Youngster Chinglensana made use of a gem of a pass from Gurwinder Chandi to enhance the lead through a field effort in the 51st minute (2-0).
Pakistan replied through their third penalty corner.
Indian goalie stopped the shot, but Mohd. Waqas collected the rebound which was shoulder high and tapped in (1-2). The Indians protested for high ball, but the umpires stood their ground.
Shortly after Pakistan reduced the margin, India suffered on account of a yellow card to vice-captain Raghunath but managed to hold on to the lead till the end.
Pakistan did not give up, and even got a penalty corner at the hooter time, but Indian defence stood to their task. Indian upfront were found wanting on many occasions and they wasted all the four penalty corners they obtained. Pakistan held upper hand in the first quarter but individual game spoilt their show.
India just created one chance in the first quarter when young Chinglensana hit from the left flank for a deflection in the circle. However, Pradhan Somanna applied the stick only to see the ball rise and sail high above the goal cage.
Three minutes later, India attacked ferociously but in vain. Gurwinder Chandi received a long pass from defender VR Raghunath on the left flank. He dodged past two players and set up Nitin Thimmaiah who, however, failed to trap the ball near the backline.
India got a chance to go up in the 27th minute, but poor penalty corner drill let India down. The ball could not be stopped properly, still Rupinder Pal took a shot but misdirected it.
India’s winger Sunil almost scored a goal on the run, but Rashid Mohd came in the nick of time to make a goal-line save.
The game had to be stopped just before half time when Rupinder Pal’s stick hit Shafqat Rasool and the Pakistani was seen writhing in pain on the turf.
Early in the second half, Pakistan got two penalty corners. Defender Raghunath blocked the first one while Mohd. Irfan shot wide in the second.
Mercurial forward Shakeel Abbasi missed a sitter in the 48th minute when he lost control inside the Indian circle even as he was all alone in his extremely delightful solo.
He also let another chance go in the 62nd minute when Pakistan was trailing 1-2. Pakistan pressed hard in the last five minutes, but India saw off their attack.