Ipoh: Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh and the young Indian forward line rose to the big occasion on Tuesday to earn a well-deserved 3-1 win over old foes Pakistan to stay alive in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament.
Vice captain Sreejesh saved as many as seven penalty corners (PC) and young Indian forwards Akashdeep Singh and Mandeep Singh scored vital goals to lead India's victory, which pushed them up to the fourth spot with a goal difference of zero.
Muhammad Waqas opened the scoring for Pakistan as early as the 4th minute when he dived to deflect the ball in on a set piece off Pakistan's first penalty corner. But from there on, Pakistan's PC conversion went from bad to worse with skipper Muhammad Imran failing to beat Sreejesh on any of the seven more they earned.
Rupinder Pal Singh scored the opening goal for India off a penalty corner. (Getty Images)
India, on the other hand, got just one penalty corner and made the most of it when defender Rupinder Pal Singh slapped his push past Imran Butt in the 5th minute. Akashdeep made it 2-1 four minutes later, and the scoreline stayed as is at half-time. The second half wasn't up to the flair two teams showed in the first 35 minutes, and it was young Mandeep Singh's 56th minute deflection that earned India a desperate win.
The match began at a frenzied pace with the scoreboard reading 1-1 by the 5th minute. The repeated forays into the rival half by the two traditional rivals didn't let the tempo die down in the first half, putting a spectacle in front of their vociferous supporters.
After Akashdeep's neat finishing off a rebound from the Pakistan goalkeeper, Pakistan earned three penalty corners before the half-time hooter, but Imran couldn't find a way through the Indian defence in the 15th, 25th and 35th minutes.
Shafqat Rasool led Pakistan's dominance in the first 10 minute of the second half, which, however, didn't match the speed first half produced. Still, the goal-scoring touch continued to elude the men in green jerseys. Imran got another opportunity to convert a 52nd-minute PC, but disappointed again.
Mandeep and Malak Singh kept the pressure on Pakistani defenders, reducing them to just looking for opportunities on counter-attacks instead of well-stitched moves. After Mandeep put India in front at the 56th-minute mark, Pakistan got three more PCs in the 58th, 64th and 65th minutes but it just wasn't their day as they squandered those as well.