Pakistan mauls India

LONE SUCCESS: India's Tejbir Singh (left) celebrates after scoring the opening and only goal against Pakistan. Pakistan, however, had the last laugh as it pumped in four goals.   | Photo Credit: Photo: AP

S. Thyagarajan

Two superb goals after resumption spells disaster for IndiaIndian men are out of medal reckoningIndian eves' match marred by poor umpiring

Melbourne: Sensational in more ways than one, India's matches in the men's and women's hockey events were exhilarating. While the men slithered down the slope of defeat against Pakistan in a second half debacle (4-1) in Pool B, the women, surviving some vagaries of umpiring, shared points (2-2) with South Africa after trailing 0-2 in Pool A.

The men, who drew with Malaysia on Friday, are out of the medal reckoning, but there is a lingering hope for the women, defending the gold here. They have to face Nigeria and Malaysia.

Passionate duel

The India-Pakistan match contained an element of passion, heightened by the splendid atmosphere at the venue. There was very little to suggest a humiliation from the trend in the first half. If anything, a win for India was not seen as impossible.

So effective was the functioning of the mid-field, where Prabhodh Tirkey and Ignace were prominent, that it looked as though the Pakistani attack was subdued. The deep defenders Kanwalpreet and Sandeep exuded confidence as did goalkeeper Bharat Chetri.

Tejbir's opening goal

When Tejbir Singh struck, providing finishing touches to a move initiated by Arjun Halappa and developed by Vikram Pillay, there was understandable elation. The goal itself reflected a measure of ingenuity. The Pakistani frontline, led by the irrepressible Shakeel Abbasi progressively escalated pressure. The mid-field, which took quite a while to settle down, enjoyed a spell of dominance thanks to the efforts of Saqlain. On the wing Rehan Butt began to work vigorously as did Mudassar Ali. Midway through, cohesion was quite manifest.

Spectacular strikes

Then came the equaliser when Mudassar Ali smashed in a cross from Butt. Two spectacular goals within the seven minutes after resumption spelt disaster for India. Tariq Aziz produced a stunner, as did Adnan Maqsood to give Bharat Chetri a nightmare. Every grain of confidence that India assimilated disintegrated as the team began to fret and fumble. The despair was all pronounced in the way the team failed at the all-important end. Didar and Ignace shot wide. Neither Deepak nor Tushar could do anything precious. The saving grace was Rajpal Singh. But can one swallow make a summer?

Pakistan's skipper Saqlain even missed a penalty stroke, but the goal by Adnan Maqsood put the last nail in the Indian coffin.

Courageous display

For sheer fortitude, the Indian women deserve to be complimented. They were certainly the better-organised outfit against South Africa. But the dispute over a disallowed goal distracted them so much that it took a long time for them to find their rhythm. Yet, they achieved that gallantly.

A penalty corner goal by Kate Hector shocked the defence. But the second by Henritte Buisson appeared to emerge from a tennis-like overhead to a lob. Why the Australian umpire Minka Wooley ignored this was incomprehensible. It was Wooley, who ventured to advise her colleague, Reneta Peters of Germany, to disallow the goal after Mamta Kharb tapped in a penalty corner by Rajinder Kaur.

Subhadra's brace

The protest only earned a yellow-card, the second for skipper Sumrai Tete. Crestfallen and spirits low, the Indians recouped and made a match of it. The goals by Subhadra Pradhan, the first from a penalty stroke late in the first half and the next, a minute before the hooter, only went on to underscore the grit and determination of the girls to conquer the odds confronting them.

It must however be acknowledged India was abominable when it came to converting penalty corners. It obtained 10, six in the second half.

The results: Pool A: Men: New Zealand 4 (Gereth Brooks, Shea McAleese 2, Simon Child) beat Canada 1 (Wayne Fernandez); England 3 (Martin Jones, Matthew Daly, Simon Mantell) beat Scotland 1 (David Mitchell).

Pool B: Pakistan 4 (Mudassar Ali Khan, Tariq Aziz, Adnan Maqsood 2) beat India 1 (Tejbir Singh). Malaysia 8 (Mohamad Amin 4, Misron Azlan, Mohan Jiwa 2, Logan Raj) beat Trinidad & Tobago 0.

Women: Pool A: South Africa 2 (Kate Hector, Henriette Buisson) drew with India 2 (Subhadra Pradhan 2).

Pool B: England 5 (Chloe Rogers 2, Melaine Clewlow 2, Helen Grant) beat Scotland 0.

Sunday's schedule: Women: Australia vs. Nigeria (5.30 a.m.); Canada vs. New Zealand (7.30 a.m.).

Men: Australia vs. Canada (9-30 a.m.); Pakistan vs. South Africa (12.30 p.m.).