India outplayed by Pakistan, end without medal in Hockey 9s
Perth: A profligate Indian men`s hockey team frittered away chances galore, going down 1-4 to arch-rivals Pakistan in the bronze medal match to sign off bottom of the heap in the four-nation Lanco International super Series Hockey 9s on Sunday.
With wayward shooting inside the circle, Indians had only themselves to blame as even a sizeable fan turnout also failed to inspire them.
Rajpal Singh struck India`s lone goal at the stroke of lemon break through a penalty corner.
The match started briskly, with India dominating the first five minutes or so but it was Pakistan which moved the scoreboard early on.
Pakistan converted the half chances that came their way to go up 2-0 within the first 12 minutes. Captain Shakeel Abbasi (7th minute) and Muhammad Waqas (12th minute) took the match away from the Indians.
Goals thereafter came easily for Pakistan with Fareed Ahmed (17th minute) and Waqas giving finishing touches to a good attack in the 21st minute.
To add to India`s woes, Vikas Sharma got a green card suspension along with Pakistan getting a penalty corner in the sixth minute.
Sohail Abbasi got the feed in the resultant penalty drill, and whacked the ball in with his characteristic backhand to flummox Indian Goalie PR Sreejesh for the first goal of the match.
Thereafter, there was no stopping the team that had already qualified for the Olympic by virtue of being the Asian Games champions.
Sardar Singh, Gurbaj Singh and defender V Raghunath created many moves for the forwards to score, but S B Sunil, Yuvraj Walmiki and Tushar Khandekar were rusty.
Hard-earned crosses and pushes into the circle went abegging without any of the forwards even making a semblance of effort.
Tushar, in the 25th minute, was served from near the circle by Sarwanjit Singh but he let the ball pass him silently. Two minutes later, young forward Yuvraj hit the side netting after getting served from Gurbaj on the right.
Indian captain Bharat Chhetri, who played the second half of the crucial match expressed surprise on the team`s performance.
"We did not play our usual game. We lost our usual rhythm also. In fact, we lost the game when we missed at least three clear chances within the first five minutes. I think we lost the game when that happened," Chhetri admitted.
"We ourselves did not expect we will lose the game this way, that too to Pakistan," he added.