LONDON : Saturday’s mouth-watering India versus Pakistan Hero Hockey World League semi-final match turned out to be a one-sided affair at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis centre here. India routed Pakistan 6-1, after leading 4-0 at half-time. Ramandeep Singh (8th and 31st minutes), Talwinder Singh (25th), Harmapreet Singh (36th) and Mandeep Singh (27th and 59th) were the scorers.
The win keeps India in the fray for a fifth finish in the Hockey World League semi-final. On Sunday, India will play Canada, 7-3 winners against China in an earlier classification match on Saturday.
Malaysia’s dream run hit a roadblock and hosts England suffered heartbreak as Argentina set up a grand finale with The Netherlands. All four teams have qualified for 2018 World Cup in India.
Malaysia’s ultra-defensive tactics allowed Argentina a 2-1 win in the evening’s first semifinal. Lucas Vilan slotted from a penalty corner in the 13th minute and Manuel Brunet doubled the lead in the 34th. Fitri Saari converted a stroke for Malaysia in the 38th minute but the South Americans defended well to go through.
In an action-packed match where England’s goalkeeper and captain George Pinner stood out with some outstanding saves, the Dutch struck two late goals in a space of three minutes to outsmart England. Mirco Pruijser put The Netherlands ahead in the 45th and Bjorn Kellerman added the insurance. Both were field goals.
NO MIRACLE HOCKEY
Unlike their cricket team that stunned India in the ICC Champions Trophy final last Sunday, Pakistan’s hockey team produced no miracle. It was disappointing to see the erstwhile Olympic and world champions Pakistan making elementary errors on a day when they promised to challenge India after losing a close match against Argentina in the quarter-finals.
PAK MAY END LAST
The defeat means Pakistan can only finish seventh or eighth in this leg of the Hockey World League semi-final. It effectively narrows their chances of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in India. Pakistan did not make it to the 2014 World Cup in The Hague.
India had beaten Pakistan by a record 7-1 margin in a group league match of the Hockey World League on June 18. That victory got overshadowed by the big loss of Virat Kohli’s team in the ICC Champions Trophy final at The Oval. On Saturday, with a cool breeze blowing across the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, India turned the heat on their arch-rivals from the word go.
India’s first four strikes came off field goals. Ramandeep Singh, who missed a hattrick against Malaysia in a quarter-final match, opened India’s scoring in the eighth minute. Had Akashdeep Singh not missed a sitter in the 10th, India would have been two-nil in the first quarter.
India pumped in three more in the second quarter. Talwinder Singh’s smart deflection off a Pradeep Mor assist, Mandeep’s final touch to an Akashdeep solo and Ramandeep’s sense of positioning and composure threw Pakistan totally out of gear. Mandeep completed the 6-1 rout in the final quarter with a scrappy finish that once again exposed Pakistan’s leaky defence. India and Pakistan scored a goal each in the third quarter. Harmanpreet Singh finally found the target from a direct penalty corner conversion and a defensive error by Satbir Singh, enabled Ajaz Ahmed pull one back for Pakistan.
Pakistan missed their captain Abdul Haseem Khan. He was injured in the right wrist early in the second quarter and that was a period when India had total control of the pitch, used the flanks well and injected several balls into the Pakistan Dee. Except the goal, Pakistan failed to stitch one noteworthy attack and could not force a single penalty corner.
Pakistan’s abject surrender was disheartening for the fans who turned up. They looked all at sea and in the absence of a leader, the green shirts were easily overwhelmed by an Indian team that enjoyed absolute ball possession and took its chances well in what actually transpired to be a no contest.