Last match of the day promised to be exciting, as always when India and Pakistan meet in international hockey. The two neighbours have been giants of the hockey scene for the longest time and their classic rivalry always attracts big crowds, whether at senior or junior level, for a final or a 9th place as tonight.
Both teams were eager to get into action and the flag waving crowd was roaring in anticipation. The Indians, sporting their new bright yellow kit, rushed forward from the opening whistle. They created a few chances but, as too often in this competition, were too hasty in trying to conclude. They were surprised in the 7th minute when Pakistani Muhammad Dilber received the ball behind their defense and calmly passed it to Rizwan Ali left totally unmarked in the middle of the circle for an easy push in goal.
India tried to come back quickly but, encouraged by the crowd, were pushing their runs a tad too far, making it difficult for themselves to deliver useful passes. Pakistani goal-keeper Mazhar Abbas handled well some hot situations and Pakistan weathered the Indian storm calmly, dashing forward in bold counter-attacks each time they had an opening.
India were close, even very close, on multiple occasions but could not manage to slot one in goal and Pakistan were still holding their fragile one-goal lead going into the break.
The same pattern of play continued in second period, with India persisting in trying to penetrate the well regrouped Pakistani defense with individual runs. They had to rely on playing to the foot of a defender to earn a penalty-corner, but Gurjinder Singh’s high flick was calmly deflected by Mazhar Abbas.
The Pakistani players were on par with the Indians for individual skills, but playing more collectively, connecting well with each other in defense and in attack. The Indians players were inconsistent, displaying great skills to undress defenders but then sending their next pass astray.
Pakistan were saved once more by their keeper on a violent shot by Akashdeep Singh from the top of the circle. The crowd was getting impatient and the Indian players more and more nervous. They finally earned another penalty-corner in a messy scramble in the goal-mouth with five minutes left in the match and this time Gurjinder Singh managed to slot his low flick out of reach of the goal-keeper, tying the proceeding and sending the crowd in ecstatic ruptures.
The final minutes were played in a wild atmosphere but score remained tied and the outcome of the game had to be decided by a shoot-out competition, an exciting prospect with such individually talented players. The two goal-keepers saved one attempt each, but Satbir Singh missed for India and Muhammad Dilber was the hero for Pakistan, earning his team the 9th position in the competition and pushing India down to a modest 10th place.