ACT Hockey 2023: India show Pakistan the door, book semifinal date with Japan | Hockey News

CHENNAI: Once the last beat of the Kollywood songs ended here at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium on Wednesday, the game of the tournament started with a near disaster for India. Pakistan were celebrating a goal in just 95 seconds after the start. The stunned Chennai crowd, with hands on hips, watched the replay on the big screen after a video referral, and then erupted in joy as Hannan Shahid’s strike was disallowed.

India vs Pakistan:As it happened
The wake-up call saw the Indian defence regroup and get its structure back. For the next 12 minutes, it was free-flowing hockey, with both the sides defending well, until the dying seconds of the first quarter, when India earned their first penalty corner (PC) and skipper Harmanpreet Singh sounded the board for the first of his two goals.

After Harmanpreet added a cushion in the 23rd minute, Jugraj Singh stepped up to flick on another short corner six minutes into the third quarter to make it 3-0.
The Pakistan team, which gave a good account of itself in the tournament compared to some of its previous outings, was now staring at an exit from the race to semis.

(Photo: Hockey India)
Akashdeep’s feather touch off a pass from Mandeep Singh put the icing on the cake for a 4-0 scoreline that stood as is until the final whistle.
The result put Pakistan out of the tournament, giving defending champions Japan another lease of life, as they leapfrogged the Pakistanis to finish in the top four and enter the semis.
The Pakistan coach clearly wasn’t happy at half-time, nor was assistant coach Rehan Butt as he called the disallowed first goal a “contentious” call.
He felt it could have given his team the early momentum that it desperately wanted to put their more skillful opponents under pressure.
“That is what video referrals are for,” reacted India coach Craig Fulton. “Umpires gave their decision…We played well and defended well. So that is important for us.”

But unperturbed by a couple of defensive lapses in the first two minutes, India got their mojo back, which highlighted in Harmanpreet’s drag-flicks, the long slap passes of Jarmanpreet Singh and some brilliant off-the-ball running of Mandeep Singh’s.
Mandeep has a habit of catching the opposition defence napping with his sense of space and then if it follows a turnover, he rushes back in quick time to become the first line of defence.
“It is a tough position to be in,” said Fulton, speaking about Mandeep’s role. “He is an experienced guy and brings dynamism to this set-up.”
Table toppers India will meet fourth-placed Japan in the semifinals. The title-holders held the Tokyo bronze medallist to a 1-1 draw in their league meeting. But Fulton says if the team can display the consistency it put on show against Pakistan, they should be okay.

“We had 29 circle penetrations then,” said Fulton, hinting that the conversion rate needs to be better when they meet Japan again in the semis.
The team visibly looked satisfied after the game, posing for selfies, and PR Sreejesh running across the field to a section of his fans cheering “Sreejesh, Sreejesh” to draw his attention.
And like always, he didn’t disappoint them, jumping over the hoarding to join them for a group selfie.
Semi-final line-up:
1. South Korea vs Malaysia
2. India vs Japan

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