India thrashed arch-rivals Pakistan 4-0 in the inaugural match of the Champions Trophy hockey tournament here on Saturday.
Ramandeep Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Mandeep Singh and Lalit Upadhyay scored for the men in blue who completely dominated their opponents throughout at the packed BH & BC Hockey Stadium here.
It was Roelant Oltmans-coached Pakistani outfit who were on the attack mode right from the start. India’s goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh was put to task in the initial minutes of the match when Muhammad Irfan Junior took a strong shot on goal but the Indian skipper was up to the challenge, making an impressive save.
For Pakistan, it was the experienced Muhammad Irfan holding their defence. They used pace in the midfield to hold sway, and did not allow India easy circle entry.
India tried high balls to penetrate and make space in the striking circle but it did not work. However, a clever stick work by Mandeep Singh in the baseline helped India win the first PC of the match.
The chance though went begging as Harmanpreet Singh couldn’t get the right pace on his flick, as Pakistan’s experienced goalkeeper Imran Butt broke no sweat to save.
The second quarter was crucial for India after a goalless start. Mandeep brought hope again with another impressive effort to fetch India their second PC in the opening minute of the quarter but a poor injection wasted the opportunity.
India missed yet another chance in the following minutes when forward Dilpreet’s quick-fire assist to Ramandeep was not trapped properly.
In the 26th minute, Ramandeep made up for this missed opportunity when he won India a much-needed 1-0 lead when he picked up a brilliant assist from Simranjeet Singh.
The goal was set-up by Sardar Singh’s brilliant pass that pierced through the midfield to find Lalit at the top of the circle who eventually passed it to Simranjeet. Ramandeep positioned in front of the Pakistani goalkeeper kept it low to deflect it past Butt into the goal.
Pakistan upped their tempo in the third quarter, playing an improved structure compared to their previous outings against India at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Asia Cup last year.
Pakistan even found an equaliser at the start of the third quarter but the goal was disallowed after Harmanpreet’s smart decision to take the video referral.
The ball had rolled off Pakistani attacker’s leg before Ali Shan put it past Sreejesh.
Desperate for a goal, Pakistan stretched the Indian defence and this time it worked with the Shafqat Rasool winning Pakistan their first PC of the match.
A brilliant rush-in by Amit Rohidas ensured dragflicker Mubashar Ali did not equalise.
Leading 1-0 at the start of the final quarter, India upped their ante in attack to find three splendid breakthroughs in the 54th, 57th and 60th minute through young forwards Dilpreet, Mandeep and Lalit.
India’s second goal scored by Dilpreet was set up deep at the back when defender Surender Singh’s stupendous tackle snatched the ball from Pakistan.
It was Simranjeet who carried the ball in the midfield and once again made an effective assist with a perfect pass to Dilpreet who held his nerves to beat Imran Butt to the goal.
With Pakistan pulling out their goalkeeper, Mandeep broke no sweat as he flipped the ball into the post in the 57th minute as the Indians went on a rampaging finish capitalising on their high fitness levels to keep up the speed and dented Pakistan’s defence.
Mandeep later assisted Lalit who scored on the whistle to end India’s opening match with a superb 4-0 win.
India will next take on Argentina in their second match on Sunday.