KARACHI: In a nail-biting contest, Mubashar Ali scored a late equaliser to help Pakistan stun arch-rivals India with a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia on Saturday.
Spectators were brought to the edge of their seats as the match proved to be one of the most thrilling hockey encounters between the traditional rivals in recent times.
Pakistan came into this match with five defeats in as many previous matches against India. And it appeared as if India will make it six after dominating the early part of the game.
In front of a full house, India had more possession in the first quarter also earned a penalty corner. In the 12th minute, Sunil sent a diagonal pass from right to Dilpreet — India’s hero of the Junior World Cup victory in 2016 — who finished the job beautifully with a strong push.
Next minute, Ali Shan’s thunderous hit from the right side of the circle brushed off the cross bar.
With Atiq Arshad yellow carded in the first minute of the second quarter, India took advantage. They earned two back to back penalty corners — both from foot faults of Pakistani defenders. Off the second, Hermanpreet extended India’s lead when his strong flick found the left corner of the net at the mid height.
Tempers flared as both Faisal Qadir and Akashdeep were shown yellow cards after an altercation between the two players.
In the 25th minute, a brilliant dribbling run by captain Rizwan Senior fetched Pakistan their first penalty corner. But Sreejesh made a fine save. The greenshirts had two other PCs before the half-time but it remained 2-0 for India.
Five minutes into the second half, Imran Butt, who had a good game, saved an RP Singh PC attempt. Immediately, the ball reached debutant Rana Sohail at the top of the circle but his reverse hit went out.
Mohammad Irfan, unmarked near the left past, gave Pakistan a lifeline in the 38th minute when he tapped in after a counter-attack, diving spectacularly to reduce the margin.
India applied immense pressure during the last few minutes of the third quarter but Pakistan’s defence did well with custodian Imran Butt foiling many of their rivals’ attempts.
With their tails up, Pakistan earnestly looked for the equaliser in the last quarter.
A long high ball into the Indian circle, saw one-on-one between the striker and the goalie but Sreejesh effected a brilliant save. Soon, Pakistan had three penalty corners but the goal eluded them.
With two minutes left, India wasted a good chance when Manpreet’s reverse flick missed the target badly.
Trailing 1-2, with just 15 seconds left, Pakistan made a penetration into the Indian circle from right. Not finding any gap, Pakistan’s forwards looked for an Indian foot and believed they found one.
The umpire thought otherwise. On Pakistan’s appeal, it was referred to the third umpire and the penalty corner was awarded.
Indians cleared the ball out of the circle. Again, the greenshirts appealed for an Indian foot and again it was passed on to the third umpire. Another PC resulted. This time, Mubashar’s powerful low drag flick hit the tin below the diving Indian goalkeeper Sreejesh’s right elbow and helped Pakistan earn a thrilling draw. The greenshirts will now face England on Sunday (today).