Vastavam web: India made a stupendous comeback after being a goal down as they beat Pakistan 3-1 in the 5th Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament to stretch their unbeaten streak against arch-rivals to 11 games. Captain Manpreet Singh (24th), forward Mandeep Singh (31st) and Dilpreet Singh (42nd) scored for the winners with Indian captain’s impressive performance earning him ‘Man of the Match’ award on Saturday night. India dominated the proceeding despite Muhammad Irfan Jr’s first minute strike that had put Pakistan ahead.
Ranked fifth in the world, India went into the match with a 10-match unbeaten streak against Pakistan but it was the World No. 13 side, who started in good rhythm. The goal came as a setback for the Indian team but they did manage to regain control in the next few minutes, keeping possession and trying to make inroads in the Pakistani defence through darting runs down the flanks. It was a tactic that worked as they earned a couple of penalty corners. But the Pakistani defence held on in the opening quarter to take their one-goal advantage into the two-minute break.
India tried to look for the equaliser in the second quarter but struggled inside striking circle. But it was a moment of magic from skipper Manpreet, which saw India finally get their equaliser as the midfielder showcased individual brilliance to score in the 24th minute. In the third quarter, it was Mandeep Singh’s turn to get his name on the score-sheet and give his team a 2-1 lead.
A turnover in the 31st minute saw Akashdeep Singh make a defence splitting run into the striking circle and pass the ball to fellow striker Mandeep, who had his back towards Pakistani goal but flicked the ball between his own legs as Pakistani Goalkeeper Imran Butt had no chance. India had a good third quarter as they denied their arch-rivals in making many circle entries and then extended their lead to two-goals as Dilpreet Singh scored his fourth of the tournament to put India 3-1 ahead. The crucial goal came in the 42nd minute as India attacked their opponents through a quick counter-attack which was led by Akashdeep, who raced past Pakistani midfielders and then found Lalit Upadhyay on the right flank.