Working their way slowly into the match against a much improved Pakistan side, India produced some vein-popping intensity to quell their opponents’ initial aggression and then finally took over the territory to produce a stunning performance to destroy Pakistan 7-1.
India came into this match riding on the momentum of two wins. Pakistan, on the other hand, were haunted by two consecutive defeats — 0-4 against Holland and then the humiliating 0-6 against Canada. They had simple expectations — they needed to avoid a big defeat. When Ajaz Ahmad sprinted his way into the Indian striking circle in the second minute, missing a goal by the thinnest of margins, many would have thought that a contest was on.
For the next ten minutes, both sides produced moves that could have brought the opening goal. But once, Indian goalkeeper Vikas Dahiya kept out a stiff shot and then Ali Amjad, the Pakistan goalkeeper somehow managed to bring up his gloves to keep out a stinging Akashdeep Singh hit from the top of the circle. Pakistan weren’t rolling over. They were playing up field and India realized that space was at a premium. Harmanpreet Singh had already missed a penalty corner.
In the 13th minute, India earned their second penalty corner and this time, Harmanpreet’s flick either intentionally or by error rolled along the turf to beat Ali. India, to their palpable relief, had a 1-0 lead. Pakistan kept attacking and also earned a penalty corner, which the tall and lanky Muhammad Aleem Bilal shot over the cross piece. By the end of the first quarter, it was evident that Pakistan were trying to hold the ball and create penetration, which would give some opportunities to their forward line.
In their match against Canada, which they had lost 0-6, Pakistan, in fact, had more circle penetrations than even the Canadians. Positioning and finishing had been woeful that day. But against India, they had…