Defending champions Pakistan were undone by a superb comeback by India as they fell 3-2 to their arch-rivals in a high-voltage preliminary round match of the Asian Champions Trophy here on Sunday.
Strikes by Mohmmad Rizwan Senior and Mohammad Irfan Junior in the space of eight minutes in the second quarter had put Pakistan well in control after Pradeep Mor had opened the scoring for India in the 22nd minute.
But Rupinder Pal Singh converted a penalty corner in the 43rd minute and Ramandeep Singh scored in the following minute by deflecting in a diagonal cross from Talwinder Singh to seal victory for India.
“The result was not in our favour but we played well and enjoyed the game,” said Pakistan coach Khawaja Junaid, praising his young side for giving India a stiff competition.
“It was a brilliant game with a very high level of skills between two top teams. This was the best match we have played in a long time.
“The boys performed much better than the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup five months ago, which was the only tournament we have played since last year’s World League Semifinals in Antwerp.”
Pakistan’s inability to secure an Olympic berth for this year’s Rio Games had left them short of international fixtures and coach feels that some more experience against leading international teams would put Pakistan hockey back among the top nations.
“Pakistan will come out of this and we will hopefully progress into the semi-finals but we must win Japan and China [in our remaining matches],” added Junaid after his side opened their campaign with a 4-2 defeat to Malaysia before beating South Korea 1-0.
The defeat left Pakistan with three points from three outings, third in the six-team standings with the top four teams from the round-robin competition will advance to the semi-finals.
Malaysia lead on nine points as they booked their place in the semi-finals with a 7-2 victory over winless Japan in Sunday’s other match while India have seven point.