HOCKEY / Host Malaysia tumbles to its fourth successive defeat
The spectacular victory sequence that India constructed since the last World Cup in New Delhi was shattered when Pakistan inflicted a 3-1 defeat on Wednesday in the Azlan Shah hockey tournament here. India led 1-0 at half-time.
It was not a classic tie by any stretch of imagination but close enough to create pulsating moments that an India-Pakistan encounter generates without fail.
Over-elaboration and needless accent on defending the goal secured midway in the first half caused India's downfall.
Almost throughout the first half, India had the upper hand. There were neat passes from the mid-field, where Vikas Pillay played a leading role with Vikram Pillay, and the deep defenders, Mahadik and Rupinder were perfectly placed.
An exciting sequence arose early on when Shivendra slammed in the ball from a penalty corner sequence that prompted the Dutch umpire, Roderick Wijsmueller to signal a goal. But on a protest from the Pakistanis that an infringement had taken place when the ball bounced off the umpire consulted his colleague, Martin Madden and reversed the decision.
India still held the territorial advantage and took the lead through a withering penalty corner hit by Rupinderpal Singh, giving him his sixth goal in the competition. His second effort close on half-time was neatly saved by goalkeeper Imran Shah. However, the match transformed in the second half. The Indian defenders were slow to meet the thrust of the Pakistani attack. If the strategy was to hold on to the lead, it backfired completely.
Progressively, the bite in the Pakistani attack became sharper as the Indian defenders struggled to keep the raids of Abbasi, Rehan and Fareed under check.
Midway through came the equaliser off a splendid effort from Fareed, who dodged the defenders delectably to help Umar Butta beat Adrian all ends up.
That triggered a Pakistani resurgence, generating penalty corners in quick succession. Muhammad Imran produced a stunner for the lead and this was followed by a powerful flick by veteran Sohail Abbas to put the issue beyond doubt.
There were a few feeble attempts by India to get back into the groove but the frontline, where Chandi, Shivendra and even Roshan Minz failed repeatedly, could do precious little to reverse the trend. The two penalty corners that India forced in the final minute did not help matters in any way.
Aussies on top
Overcoming intense resistance in patches, the Aussies managed to obtain full points against Korea to move to the top of the table with 10 points.
There was a palpable hint of aggression in the Korean attack. Though the Aussies established a comfortable 2-0 lead within 10 minutes from the start, the defenders had to face immense pressure from the Koreans who netted through You Hyo Sik with a delicate deflection.
Pepped up by this the Koreans stepped up the pace only to concede another goal when Glenn Turner capped the effort of Kiel Brown and Jason Wilson. An early goal by Hyun Hye Sung heightened tension with Korea forcing three penalty corners but the defenders held on gamely.
In the last quarter the Aussies wrested the initiative and increased the lead when Mark Patterson struck off a cross from Wilson.
Agony for Malaysia
Malaysia tumbled to its fourth successive defeat conceding the match-winner to New Zealand — the Kiwis' first win in four matches — 17 seconds before the hooter. The agony for the home team continued as nothing worked well for it.
The Kiwis, struggling to find their rhythm in the searing afternoon heat, managed to call the shots and held the lead right through.
Six penalty corners against just one by the local team (67th minute) was an indication of the trend of the contest.
Hugo Iglis was the prominent performer for New Zealand, which earned him the Man-of-the-Match award. The Kiwis have four points in as many encounters while the home team is yet to open its account.
New Zealand 3 (Nicolas Wilson, Stephen Jenness, Collier Benjamin) bt Malaysia 2 (Rahim Iazzat, Faisal Saari).
Australia 4 (Timothy Deavin, Mark Patterson 2, Glenn Tuner) bt Korea 2 (You Hyo Sik, Hyun Hye Sung).
Pakistan 3 (Umar Butta, Muhammad Imran, Sohail Abbas) bt India 1 (Rupinderpal Singh).
Thursday's matches: Australia v Great Britain (1.35 p.m.); India v New Zealand (3.35 p.m.); Korea v Malaysia (5.35 p.m.) .