KUANTAN, Malaysia: Defending champions India were surprised with a 2-3 defeat against arch-rivals Pakistan in their opening league match of the eighth Asia Cup hockey here Sunday.
In a rain-marred match that was halted for about 45 minutes in the second-half, Pakistan scored through Haseem Khan (33rd), Rehan Butt (36th) and Sohail Abbas (54th) while Prabhjot Singh (15th) and Rajpal Singh (45th) replied for India.
Pakistan, who scraped to a 1-1 draw with China with a late equalizer Saturday, thus entered the semi-finals by topping the three-team pool.
India need to beat China Monday, if they hope to make it to the semi-finals. Sunday’s was the first league match of India in the tournament.
The Indians had their chances against the Pakistanis Sunday, but as if by script, failed to convert these.
Pakistan played far better than in their opening fixture against China and put together several dangerous moves after falling in arrears midway through the first half when Prabhjot found the boards through a rebound from a penalty corner by skipper Sandeep Singh.
Stepping up the pace, Pakistan equalized when Haseem Khan cashed in on a defensive lapse and then Butt, for long the ace striker for his team, put them ahead within a minute of restart with a brilliant effort.
The Indians, to their credit, kept their composure and Rajpal Singh netted the equaliser from a Gurbaaj free-hit just as the showers intensified, leading to stoppage of the game immediately after the goal was signaled.
On re-start, India wasted a couple of penalty corners while at the other end, Abbas, the legendary drag-flick specialist, found the net 16 minutes from the end and Pakistan hung on to the lead for a well-deserved victory.