New Delhi: Indian hockey team won the hearts of their countrymen when they thrashed arch-rivals Pakistan 7-1 in a Pool B clash to storm into the quarter-finals of the Hockey World League (HWL) Semi Final here on Sunday.
While the Men in Blue dominated Pakistan throughout the match, they made a strong statement as all the players came to the field wearing black arm bands in order to condemn the attack on Indian soldiers along the Jammu and Kashmir border.
Harmanpreet Singh, who is leading the Indian team in absence of regular skipper PR Sreejesh, said that the players were determined to convey a message through sport.
“We wanted to win on the field today to show not only our proud nation but all the World that we will stand up and fight for what we believe in through sport,” he said in a release.
Goals by Harmanpreet Singh (13, 33), Talwinder Singh (21, 24), Akashdeep Singh (47, 59) and Pardeep Mor (49) ensured India toppled the Netherlands to lead the points table with its third successive win. Pakistan, on the other hand, is at the bottom.
Harmanpreet (13th and 33rd minutes), Talwinder (21st and 24th) and Akashdeep Singh (47th and 58th) ripped apart Pakistan’s defence. Pardeep Mor (49th) too contributed a goal for India as they registered their biggest victory (six-goal margin) against Pakistan.
Coming into the match, four-time world champions Pakistan had conceded four and six goals in consecutive losses to the Netherlands and Canada, respectively. India further exposed Pakistan’s weaknesses in their team’s structure in a match that had chances galore for both the teams right from the start. But it were India who capitalised on most of them.
Pakistan got the first opportunity of the match in the third minute when a counter-attack from the right flank saw Indian goalkeeper Vikash Dahiya at the mercy of Ajaz Ahmad but the latter flicked wide of the far post.
Akashdeep then was in with a chance to break the deadlock but his soft hit from close range was easily blocked by goalkeeper Amjad Ali.
Then drag-flicks from both Pakistan’s Muhammad Aleem Bilal and India’s Harmanpreet Singh went wide.
Pardeep Mor earned a penalty corner in the 13th minute and Harmanpreet came up with a grounder to beat Ali on the latter’s right to give the 1-0 crucial lead.
India, having scored the opening goal, seemed to ease their nerves and they played smooth and fluent hockey thereafter. The way they did the build-up play through the back and midfield unsettled Pakistan and the latter ran out of patience.
It resulted in two quick field goals through Talwinder in the 21st and 24th minutes. The first one was a brilliant team goal, as a Mandeep’s cut-back from the left byline to S.V. Sunil, stationed in front of the goal, saw him drive the ball to a waiting and unmarked Talwinder at the far post, who just had to tap it in. Three minutes later, Talwinder dinked past goalkeeper Ali from the right to make it 3-0.
Harmanpreet’s second goal, an unchallenged drag-flick three minutes after the half-time break, gave India a handsome 4-0 lead, putting the game beyond doubt.
Trailing by four goals, Pakistan showed some resilience and tested Indian goalkeeper Akash Chikte but the Indian didn’t allow their citadel to be breached and instead pounded two more goals through Akashdeep and Mor to complete the successful outing.
Muhammad Umar Bhutta (57th) scored a consolation goal for Pakistan.
With this win, India moved to the top spot of the Pool B with nine points, while their neighbours are yet to open their account.
(With IANS inputs)