India once again reasserted their supremacy over Pakistan as they clinically decimated the arch-rivals 4-0 in the opening match of the Champions Trophy hockey tournament, in Breda on Saturday. Coming into the tournament on the back of a disastrous Commonwealth Games campaign at the Gold Coast, where they finished a disappointing fourth, the Indians scored four fantastic field goals to make intentions clear that they meant business in Breda. Ramandeep, who was dropped from the CWG squad, answered his critics in style finding the net in 26th minute before young Dilpreet Singh (54th), Mandeep Singh (57th) and Lalit Upadhayay (60th) too joined the scorers list.
India, eyeing its maiden Champions Trophy title, will play reigning Olympic champions Argentina in their next round-robin league match on Sunday. The win also marked a positive start to India’s chief coach Harendra Singh’s fourth stint with the senior national side. Harendra took over the reigns of the team after swapping roles with Sjoerd Marijne, following India’s dreadful CWG campaign. The Indians looked a compact side in all departments of the game with the strikers utilising the opportunities that came their way while the defence came up with a superlative show during the entire 60 minutes to keep Pakistani forwards at bay.
The dominating victory also can be looked upon as a sweet revenge for India after Pakistan, which is being coached by former India coach and High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans, scored a late equaliser to eke out a 1-1 draw in Gold Coast. The Indians started positively and applied pressure on the Pakistani defence from the word go and in the process secured a penalty corner in the 13th minute but Harmanpreet’s attempt was saved by goalkeeper Imran Butt.
India got another set piece soon after the start of second quarter but once again wasted the chance. But it didn’t took long for India to break the deadlock. In the 26th minute Ramandeep deflected in a Simranjeet Singh’s reverse pass to start the proceedings. A minute before half time, an agile Butt once again came to Pakistan’s rescue keeping away Vivek Prasad’s deflection from top of the circle as went into the break with a slender one goal advantage.
Pakistan, however, came out all guns blazing after the change of ends and dominated the proceedings in the third quarter with repeated raids but failed to break the resolute Indian defence. Two minutes into third quarter, Ali Shan scored an opportunistic goal but to their dismay found the goal being disallowed for a foul after India’s Harmanpreet Singh asked for the referral.
Minutes later, Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh made a fine save to deny Toseeq Arshad. Pakistan kept up the pressure and earned a penalty corner in the 43rd minute but to no avail. After successfully weathering the storm, India doubled its lead in the 54th minute through 17-year-old Dilpreet, who beautifully picked up a long pass from Simranjeet and then dodged past an onrushing Butt to slot home.
Down by two goals, Pakistan were forced to withdraw its goalkeeper for an extra player but the move backfired as Indian pumped in two more goals in an open net in a span of three minutes to register the convincing win. First Mandeep tucked in an empty net a measured long ball from Varun Kumar and then Lalit dived full stretch to deflect in Ramandeep’s pass just at the stroke of hooter to add salt to Pakistan’s woes.