UTTAM Singh saved the blushes for India as the reigning Asia Junior Cup winners and defending champions clawed back to hold arch rivals Pakistan to a 3-3 draw in the 11th edition of the Sultan of Johor Cup at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium today.
Pakistan, who lost to India 2-1 in the final of the Junior Asia Cup in Oman in May, were riding high following a 3-2 lead for 55 minutes until Uttam’s strike in the 59th minute via a field goal shattered the hearts of the Pakistanis.
The Indians who took to the field without Araijeet Singh Hundal, their top scorer at the men’s Asia Junior Cup in Oman with eight goals and is undergoing rehabilitation back home, got off on a slow pace as the Pakistanis dominated most of the first quarter with several raids in the circle.
Pakistan team manager Col (Rtd) Asif Naz Khokhar said: “It was an entertaining match with a high level of hockey. We had several chances and should have won this match. The Indians played a remarkable game and kept the pressure on us until the last minute. Overall, I am happy with our performance although it could have been better.”
India’s head coach, S.K. Kumar, said he is not disappointed with the performance of his players but rather glad to see their determination in search for goals. It is very normal when we play in the first match in any tournament and we hope to move forward in our remaining matches.”
The Pakistanis earned their first penalty corner in the 18th minute but Muhammad Khan’s reverse stick strike was saved by goalkeeper Shashi Mohit.
Lakra Amandeep, however, got India going with the opening goal in the 30th minute through their second penalty corner conversion following a low push to the left of goalkeeper Ali Reza. The Pakistanis were far from deterred by the setback and equalized through Man of the Match award winner Arbaz Ahmad’s penalty corner conversion in the 31st minute.
Arbaz had arrived from Pakistan in the wee hours of the morning on Friday – 8 hours before the start of the match.
The Pakistanis romped to take a 2-1 lead via skipper Abdul Shahid field goal in the 49th minute but India rolled back to level 2-2 through Lalage Aditya Arjun in the 66th minute before Arbaz came back strongly to deliver his second goal and Pakistan’s third from another penalty corner conversion.
But the celebration did not last long as Pakistan’s defenders failed to hold back the marauding Indian attacking force and allowed Uttam to knock the equalizer with just a minute remaining to the final whistle.
Since 2011, India and Pakistan juniors have met nine time in international tournament with the Indians dominating the equation with six wins and three draws.