Ipoh (Malaysia), May 11: India squandered a first half lead to suffer an embarassing 1-3 defeat against arch-rivals Pakistan in a crucial match of the Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament here today.
For India Rupinder Pal Singh (20th minute) scored the lone goal, while Umar Butta (49th), Mohammad Imran (55th) and veteran Sohail Abbas (57th) found the net for Pakistan in a high-voltage encounter between to the two traditional rivals.
India started the game on a positive note and created numerous scoring chances in the opening half but could not sustain the tempo.
Rupinder Pal Singh, the find of the tournament, capitalised on one such opportunity and increased his personal tally, handing India the lead in the 20th minute with a powerful dragflick from their second penalty corner.
Pakistan got their first penalty corner in the 25th minute which was sent wide on the right side of goal by Sohail Abbas.
Maintaining the tempo of the match, India earned another penalty corner which was saved by Imran to deny Rupinder Pal Singh a chance to build on India's lead.
At half time, India led 1-0.
Things changed in the second half when Pakistan forced India to take a back seat and scored the three goals. Rehan Butt missed a chance to equalize in the 38th minute and soon after, Shakeel Abbasi sent a shot over the post.
In the 49th minute, Pakistan converted their dominance on the field into an equalizer through Umar Bhutta. In the 55th minute, Rupinder Pal Singh conceded a penalty upon which Pakistan capitalized and grabbed the lead through Mohammad Imran.
Another penalty corner let Pakistan solidify their lead over India as Sohail Abbas scored, making the score 3-1 in Pakistan's favour.
In the dying minutes of the match, India and Pakistan were both given penalty corners which did not result in any goal.
In the day's other two matches, New Zealand defeated hosts Malaysia while Australia eased past South Korea.
Meanwhile, World Champions Australia took a step closer on Wednesday to their target of winning the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup after a well-crafted 4-2 victory over joint holders South Korea.
The Australians lead the standings with 10 points, ahead of Great Britain, close behind on nine points.
Australian coach Ric Charlesworth said his team's performance was still rusty despite the win.
“There are moments where they played very well. This was in the first half where we took our chances well. The second-half performance was very poor. But we have sealed the points, and the real test will be on Thursday,” Charlesworth said.
Australia will meet Great Britain, who are on two rest days, on Thursday.
The Australians dominated the first half against South Korea, taking a 3-1 lead.
Timothy Deavin scored just after eight minutes from a field effort, followed by Mark Paterson in the 12th minute and Glenn Turner in the 34th minute.
The Koreans, who still sit on four points after four matches, reduced the deficit in the 15th minute through You Hyo-sik but rarely raised their game in the first half.
In the second half, they pulled a goal back in the 39th minute through Hyun Hya-sung, also from a field attempt.
But despite the Koreans pushing hard for the equaliser, the Australians slotted another goal in the 63rd minute through Paterson for a convincing win.
The result leaves South Korea with only a slim chance of repeating last year's feat of making the final unless Australia and Great Britain show a dramatic collapse in form.
In the earlier game, New Zealand bagged a last-minute 3-2 win over hapless hosts Malaysia to give the Kiwis their first victory at the tournament.
The hard-earned win puts New Zealand on four points and coach Shane McLeod said he hoped it would give his side vital impetus for tough games against India and old rivals Australia in the final two matches.
“We have turned the corner with this win and now will try and win more matches. It is the only way to finish high up. Overall we played better and I feel we earned the win,” he said.
The Kiwis took the lead twice, but fellow tournament strugglers Malaysia equalised each time.
However, a last counterattack earned New Zealand a penalty corner and Steven Edwards scored with 30 seconds left on the clock to give his team full points.
Before that, New Zealand scored goals through Nicholas Wilson in the 16th minute and Stephen Jenness in the 57th minute.
Malaysia's first-half goal in the 30th minute came from Mohamed Izzat Rahim. Their second was in the 68th minute through Faizal Saari.
Malaysia are yet to score a single point.