India relied on a penultimate-minute goal by SV Sunil as they beat Pakistan 2-1 in a thrilling match of the Azlan Shah Cup hockey here on Thursday. Sunil made a diving effort to push the ball into the goal in the 69th minute to clinch the issue for India in their last league game and keep themselves in the hunt for a podium finish.
Sardar Singh created the opening with his defence-splitting pass to the right and Sunil capitalised on the chance.
The win also means that India,who are virtually out of contention for a final berth,collected nine points from their six round-robin league matches and now await the other results to know who would be their opponent in the play-offs for final positions. India,though,can still sneak into the final provided other results go their way on the last day of the league games on Saturday.
India had earlier opened the scoring in the 30th minute through Sandeep Singhs penalty corner conversion while Pakistan equalised through a penalty corner goal by skipper Sohail Abbas in the 59th minute.
Pakistan had the first look at taking the lead in the 13th minute when an unmarked Shafqat Rasool received a cross from right on top of circle,but failed to beat goalkeeper Bharat Chhetri with his reverse hit. Pakistan then forced two penalty corners in the next minute but the Indian defence stood firm.
Indian strikers,on the other hand,exerted pressure to earn a penalty corner that was converted by Sandeep,who sent a rising drag-flick into the net to put India ahead at the half-hour mark. A minute later,Shivendra and Yuvraj Walmiki failed to trap Tushar Khandkers defence-splitting cross from left.
Pakistan then forced two more penalty corners in the last two minutes of the first half but failed to convert any. India earned their second penalty corner three minutes into the second half but failed to cause any trouble.
In the 45th minute,Pakistan earned a penalty corner but Abbas saw his low shot being deflected out. He,however,made amends in the 59th minute by converting their next penalty corner. Indias defence came under a lot of pressure for 10 minutes in the second half as Pakistan strikers repeatedly broke through.
India pressed hard and forced their last penalty corner in the 67th minute,but Sandeeps rising shot was blocked by a defender. Two minutes later,Sardars defence splitting pass from the centre created an opening that was converted by Sunil,who dived forward to push the ball in.
New Zealand book final berth
In another match,table-toppers New Zealand confirmed their place in the final after defeating hosts Malaysia 4-1 to go up to 12 points from five games. Shay Neal,Ryan Archibald,Shea Mcaleese and Nick Wilson scored for New Zealand while Hafifihafiz Hanafi scored the lone goal for Malaysia in the 45th minute. Malaysia have 5 points from as many games.
South Korea held Britain to a 1-1 draw,a result that severely affected favourites GBs chances of making it to the final. Great Britain now have eight points from five games while South Korea have five. South Korea took lead in the 23rd minute before Britain equalised in the 50th minute through Jonty Clarke.
Though India have nine points from six games,they can still,theoretically,make it to the final:
* While New Zealand are already qualified,the second finalist spot is still open.
* Both Argentina and India are on 9 points but Argentina have a game in hand. If they lose by more than two goals,India will be ahead on goal difference. If they win,however,they will make the final.
* Great Britain are on 8 points from 5 games. A win against Pakistan will push them up to second,provided Argentina lose their game against Malaysia. If they lose,they are out of contention.