Bhubaneswar: A misfiring India squandered a golden opportunity to create history as they went down 3-4 against arch-rivals Pakistan in a high-voltage semifinal of the Hero Champions Trophy hockey tournament, here on Saturday.
Muhammad Arslan Qadir (17th minute, 59th) turned out to be the hero for Pakistan as he scored the winner just one minute from full time.
Pakistan's other scorers were Muhammad Waqas (32nd) and Muhammad Irfan (44th), while India's struck through Gurjinder Singh (12), Dharamvir Singh (38) and Nikkin Thimmaiah (44).
Pakistani players celebrated their victory by hurling indecent and obscene gestures towards the crowds and Indian media and were promptly rebuked by coach Shahnaz Shiekh.
It was a good chance for India to register their best-ever performance in the history of Champions Trophy but they couldn't achieve the feat and buckled under pressure.
India's best-ever showing in the Champions Trophy is a bronze medal in 1982 edition of the tournament in Amstelveen, the Netherlands.
India wasted chances galore which cost them dearly. The Indians created opportunities but Sardar Singh, Nikkin, SV Sunil and Ramandeep Singh all misfired on numerous occasions from clear opening.
India looked nervous at the beginning which showed in their performance. The Indians were sloppy as they kept losing the ball frequently. Rupinder Pal Singh looked off colour at the back.
Pakistan, on the other hand, looked more organised and kept pressurising the Indian defence.
Rupinder was out-of-sorts at least in the first half as he kept losing the ball frequently and from one such occasion Pakistan created the first real scoring chance of the match in the sixth, but an alert Indian goalie P R Sreejesh came to his side's rescue with a fine save to deny Muhammad Dilbar.
Minutes later, Pakistan again looked threatening but Umar Bhutta's deflection from Shafqat Rasool's cross went just wide of the goal.
But it was India which took the lead against the run of play scoring from their first chance.
The Indians earned their first penalty corner and Gurjinder Singh made no mistake in blasting the ball into the left corner of the Pakistan net with a powerful flick. Pakistan went for referral but their appeal was disallowed.
Pakistan then won their first short corner soon but wasted the chance in search of a variation before Sreejesh blocked Shakeel Ahmed Butt's slap shot.
Gurbaj Singh's 10 minute suspension for a yellow card hurt India badly as it created open spaces in the Indian defence, resulting in Pakistan's equaliser.
Muhammad Arsalan Qadir caught the Indian defence off guard and neatly deflected home Butt's cross to draw parity for Pakistan.
India got a golden chance to restore their lead soon but Rupinder's try from their second penalty corner was easily kept out by Pakistan goalkeeper Imran Butt.
Sunil created another chance before the break with his blazing run past a hoard of Pakistani defenders. He then set it up for Nikkin who took too much time and finally shot the ball wide as both the teams went into the breather locked 1-1.
But Pakistan hit India hard two minutes after the change of ends. The Indian backline was once again to be blamed as an unmarked Waqas pushed home from Shafqat Rasool cross to silence the capacity crowd who were rooting for the home team.
Stunned by the goal, India went on the offensive and secured two penalty corners in succession but Raghunath wasted both.
Dharamvir equalised for India six minutes later with a reverse hit after Akashdeep Singh's fine build up, bringing smiles back to the faces of the rousing spectators.
Pumped up by the goal, India attacked in numbers putting immense pressure on the Pakistan defence.
Sardar got a bright chance to put India ahead when Gurjinder found him unmarked inside the circle. The Indian skipper had ample time to choose his spot but he only managed to shot wide.
Manpreet Singh then wasted another chance when he shot wide from top of the circle minutes later.
Pakistan played the waiting game and were content to fall back on defence, hoping to strike India in counter-attacks.
Their ploy worked when they won their second short corner from one such counter-attack and Irfan converted the chance with a fine variation.
But India struck back immediately in the subsequent attack through Nikkin deflected home from Gurbaj's cross.
India got a chance to seal the match in the 56th minute when they earned their fifth penalty corner of the match but Gurjinder's try was blocked by an onrushing Pakistan defender.
The miss cost India dearly as Pakistan found the back of the Indian net just a minute from the final hooter when Qadir scored from a tight angle with a reverse hit.