Pillay, Chauhan star as
India beat Pakistan
India 3 - Pakistan 2
Germany 2 - Korea 1
India produced a scintillating display to down arch rivals Pakistan 3-2 in a thriller and stay in contention for a berth in the final of the men's Champions Trophy hockey tournament in Cologne, Germany, on Wednesday.
The victory, the second successive from four matches after a draw and a defeat, swelled India's points tally to seven. Pakistan suffered their third defeat and are out of the race for a berth in Sunday's title match.
Prabhjot Singh and Dhanraj Pillay celebrate after scoring the first goal in the match against Pakistan which India won 3-2.
Photo: Dr. Klaus Höcker
Germany, with nine points from three matches, occupy the top spot in the six-team league.
Following their upset victory over Australia on Tuesday, the Indian side, comprising mainly players from the Junior World Cup-winning team, was confidence personified as they took the field. They yielded territorial advantage in the first ten minutes, during which their goal survived a couple of close shaves, but settled down thereafter and struck up a good rhythm to hustle the Pakistanis with hard running off the ball.
And if they were able to take full points from the match, it was mainly because of a brilliant display in goal by Devesh Chauhan and by the evergreen Dhanraj Pillay in the forward line. The former brought of some breathtaking saves, particularly off penalty-corners from the great Sohail Abbas, while Pillay was the livewire around which the Indian attack evolved. His speedy runs into the Pakistan circle paved the way for all of India's three goals.
After being denied a goal in the eighth minute by goalkeeper Ahmed Alam, Pillay laid the ground for India's first goal in the 20th minute. In the best move seen thus far in the tournament, he tore into the Pakistan circle beating five defenders and tapped the ball for Prabhjot Singh to complete the easiest of tasks of slamming past a hapless Alam - 1-0.
But India's joy did not last long as Gazanfa Ali put Pakistan on level terms within three minute, thanks to a lapse in the Indian defence. His feeble shot saw defender Sukhbir Singh Gill deflect the ball into his own goal.
Thereafter, the ball swung from end to end with both teams having their share of ascendancy. But with eight minutes to for the breather, India had their best period in the half. They attacked from the flanks and kept the Pakistanis back pedalling. They forced their third penalty-corner a minute before the breather. And this time captain Dilip Tirkey stepped up and drove hard and true past keeper Alam to put India ahead - 2-1.
Pakistan came back after resumption in the second session and made all the play. They forced two quick penalty-corners but Chauhan brought off fine saves off Sohail Abbas.
In the 44th minute, Dhanraj broke through but was stopped on the top of the circle. A little earlier, he had laid defence-splitting passes for Prabhjot Singh and Deepak Thakur but their two forwards failed to reach them.
But in the 51st minute, he splintered through after a neat passing bout with Daljit Singh Dhillon from the midfield. After receiving Daljit's pass, he wasted no time in relaying the ball to an overlapping Gagan Ajit Singh, who rounded off the onrushing goalkeeper and tapped home in style.
3-1 down, the Pakistanis launched a feverish search for goals and were rewarded in the 55th minute, when Sohail Abbas managed to beat Chauhan with Pakistan's fifth penalty-corner.
The Indian citadel survived some anxious moments immediately after but the defence held on.
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Deepak Thakur rejoices after Gagan Ajit Singh [not in pic] finishes off on Pillay's [right] pass for India's third goal.
Photo: Dr. Klaus Höcker
With five minutes to go India could have increased the lead but Gagan Ajit Singh and then Thakur were unable to make the best of a swift counter attack.
Then, with seconds remaining Pillay put his experience to good use and held possession - something India did not do in their first two matches against Holland and Germany -- to deny the Pakistanis the ball.
In the earlier match, Germany beat South Korea 2-1.
Bjorn Michel put the Germans ahead in the third minute with a crisp shot from the top of the circle while Jong Ha Jeong converted a penalty-stroke in the 18th minute to level the scores for the Koreans.
Timo Wess's goal from a penalty-stroke in the 50th minute turned out to be the match-winner for Germany.
Day 1: Holland hold India with late goal
Day 2: India go down fighting to Germany
Day 3: India shock Australia
Champions Trophy 2002: The Complete Coverage