Harmanpreet’s double knocks Pakistan out of ACT hockey, India emerge 4-0 winners

Chennai: Skipper Harmanpreet Singh scored twice as a dominant India beat arch-rivals Pakistan comprehensively by a 4-0 margin in their final round-robin league match to enter the semifinals on an unbeaten note here on Wednesday.

Harmanpreet (15th, 23rd minutes) converted two penalty corners, while Jugraj Singh (36th) netted from another set piece. India’s final goal came from the sticks of Akashdeep Singh from a field play in the 55th minute.

The result meant India topped the standings with 13 points from four wins and one draw.

It was heartbreak for Pakistan as they crashed out of the tournament on goal difference despite finishing on equal five points with Korea and Japan.

Pakistan needed at least a draw or a one-goal defeat to make it to the semifinals.

India will play Japan in the semifinal on Friday, while Malaysia will locks horns against Korea.

Before the start of the contest, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin greeted the players from both the nations, while Indian cricketer Ravichandran Ashwin too graced the occasion with his presence.

It was an attacking start to the opening quarter from both the teams.

Pakistan showed the early sparks by getting into the Indian circle on quite a few occasions.

But the Indian defence held its composure to not allow any inroads to its neighbours.

Pakistan had the first shy at the goal in the form of penalty corner which was brilliantly saved by Indian goalkeeper Krishan Bahadur Pathak.

After three Indian attacking attempts from Karthi Selvam, Jarmanpreet Singh and Mandeep Singh, Pakistan appealed for a penalty corner in the ninth minute, but the video referee ruled it against the Men in Green.

Following a brief game of possession, Selvam came up with a solo attack inside the Pakistan box, only to be denied by rival goalie Akmal Hussain in the 13th minute.

Just at the stroke of first quarter, India earned their penalty corner and Harmanpreet made no mistake by flicking it with a powerful low flick to the left of Pakistan goalkeeper Akmal to put India into lead.

Although the second quarter began with an attack from Pakistan’s Abdul Hannan, India quickly gained control with three quick attacks from Amit Rohidas, Mandeep and Sukhjeet Singh.

In the 21st, Pakistan came close to levelling the scores with Abdul Rehman penetrating into the box, but veteran Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh came out rushing to deny the visitors.

India won their second penalty corner in the 23rd minute and Harmanpreet scored with a fierce drag-flick in between Pakistan goalkeeper Akmal’s legs to double the lead.

The Indians came up with a series of attacks with Shamsher Singh also making his presence felt in one of the four scoring opportunities that followed.

India continued to put pressure on the Pakistani defence with constant attacks and in the process earned back-to-back penalty corners in the 30th minute but Harmanpreet failed on both occasion.

The Indians, however, asked for a video referral from the second opportunity claiming that the ball was heading into the goal and was stopped by a Pakistan player’s foot but the video referee rejected the home team’s appeal.

India led Pakistan 2-0 at half-time.

India continued with the same intensity after the change of ends and six minutes into the third quarter, secured another penalty corner. This time, Jugraj found the back of the net to triple the lead.

After a series of attacks again, India found the net in the 41st again, as Harmanpreet flashed it in while it took a deflection off a Pakistani stick.

But the goal was overturned following a video referral for dangerous ball.

The Indians had another chance with Selvam passing the ball comfortably inside the box to an unmarked Akashdeep, who pushed the ball wide with an open net in front of him.

Pakistan earned a rare penalty corner, their second, in the 43rd minute but wasted the opportunity.

India made the scoreline 4-0 in their favour in the 55th minute when Akashdeep deflected in Mandeep Singh’s strike.

India earned five penalty corners in the match and converted three out of them.

India found the net three minutes into the third quarter, thanks to Manpreet Singh and Nilakanta’s work, which was tapped in by Sukhjeet but the goal was disallowed at it went in after hitting Sukhjeet’s hand.

Five from the final hooter, Akashdeep scored India’s fourth goal, courtesy some superb one-on-one play between Mandeep and Nilakanta to set it up for the striker.

The Pakistanis struggled to attack and keep the ball in possession as the Indians continued to attack until the final minute.