Drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh struck twice as India defeated arch-rivals Pakistan 4-2 in a thrilling match and avoided the wooden spoon in the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament here on Sunday.
Rupinder scored through a penalty corner in the ninth minute and from a penalty stroke in the 62nd minute. India’s other field goals came from Akashdeep Singh in the 35th minute and Malak Singh in the 44th minute of the fifth-sixth place classification match.
For Pakistan, who ended the tournament at the last spot, skipper Muhammad Imran scored in the seventh minute through a penalty corner while Kashif Shah Syed found the target in the 46th minute.
Both sides played a fast-paced attacking hockey entertaining the good number of holiday crowd that turned up to watch the inconsequential match.
With the win, the Indian side, mainly comprising junior players, stamped their authority over Pakistan in the tournament having won the league encounter also 3-1.
Both sides had a swift exchange of attacks as soon as the match started and Pakistan went into the lead through skipper Muhammad Imran from the first penalty corner of the match.
The Indian answer came fast, just two minutes later, with a similar effort from Rupinder, a high scoop into the net from the second of the four penalty corners the team forced in the first half.
India distinctly enjoyed the edge and territorial advantage early into the match, with Dharamvir Singh and Nithin Thimmaiah taking turns to test the Pakistan goalkeeper Imran Butt.
But, India had the misfortune of losing Mandeep Singh, who was stretchered out following a collision with Pakistan midfielder Shehzad Aamir.
Pakistan gained in confidence in the later part of the first half as they got three penalty corners in quick succession. The team clearly relied on Muhammad Imran but the percentage of his penalty corner conversions today was much below the high standards he has set for himself.
Pakistan got five penalty corners, four in the first half, in the whole match.
For a change, Kashif Shah Syed took the team’s fifth penalty corner with the effort good enough to test P Sreejesh under the Indian the bar.
Just at the stroke of half-time, Akashdeep Singh gave India the lead after a coordinated attack. He tucked it in neatly while sprawling to meet a Manpreet Singh spot-on cross.
India stepped up the pace in the second half and twice had the Pakistan defence in knots but just could not translate the fine moves though Dharamvir and Akashdeep into more goals
In the 62minute, Dharamvir received a long cross into the circle and drew the goalkeeper out but his goal-bound shot hit defender Muhammad Ateeq’s foot and the umpire blew for a penalty corner before changing it to a stroke after discussing with the other umpire.
Rupinder made no mistake from the spot to score his second goal and the team’s fourth goal.
Manpreet Singh, who played his heart out in the absence of Mandeep Singh, was adjudged man-of-the-match.