Johor Bahru (Malaysia), Oct 28: Defending Champions Indian Junior Men's Hockey Team came from behind twice after trailing by a goal to hold nemesis Pakistan to a 3-3 draw in a thrilling opening match at the Sultan of Johor Cup on Friday.
It was goals by Amandeep Lakra (30'), Aditya Arjun Lalage (56') and Uttam Singh (59') that ensured India earned a point from the draw while Arbaz Ahmad (31', 58') and Abdul Shahid (49') scored for Pakistan.
Both teams lived up to the billing, producing some fine-skilled hockey in the campaign opener - setting the moment for an exciting tournament which promises to be a litmus test for the teams participating in the forthcoming FIH Hockey Men's Junior World Cup 2023 in Malaysia this December.
While both teams took time to settle into the game, shaking off those early nerves, the first big opportunity to score came in the 12th minute through India Junior Men’s Hockey Team forward Angad Bir Singh. But his shot went across the goal with no one at the far end to tap the ball in.
Even though neither team came up with potent attacking formations in the first quarter, both teams defended well to keep the score at a stalemate.
The second quarter saw Pakistan make a strong start with a PC in the opening minute. But good defence by India's first rusher denied Pakistan a goal. The following few minutes saw India earn a few chances in the circle, but a mistrap in their first PC attempt continued to keep the scoreboard at 0-0.
The defending champs were finally able to draw first blood in the 30th minute, only seconds before the half-time hooter. It was dragflicker Amandeep Lakra who fetched India a much-needed 1-0 lead.
However, returning to the pitch after the 10-minute half-time break, Pakistan were quick to equalize in the 31st minute through a PC by Arbaz Ahmad. Showcasing positive body language, Indian didn't seem perturbed by the goal and continued to build on their attack. Poovana Boby Chandura took a brave shot on goal in the 39th minute but was well-saved by the Pakistani keeper Ali Raza.
The next few minutes saw India create potential forays into the striking circle, but a goal remained elusive.
The final quarter started with a 1-1 stalemate on the scoreboard, both teams pushed themselves to fetch the important 3 points. But it was Pakistan which ended up taking a 2-1 lead in the 49th minute when their Captain Abdul Shahid took a shot on goal from the top left corner beating Indian goalie Mohit.
Though India replied to this goal with a PC in the 50th minute, the opportunity was lost with the Pakistani goalkeeper making a bright save off the Indian dragflick.
With five minutes left on the clock, India found another opportunity through a PC and this time they were brilliant in the execution with Aditya Arjun Lalage getting a deflection off the rebound from Ali Raza's pads.
The equaliser ensured the final few minutes remained intense with both teams vying for a winner. Just under three minutes for the final hooter, Pakistan bounced back with a PC well-converted by Arbaz Ahmad.
The 3-2 lead hardly dented India's spirit as they struck a stupendous field goal, thanks to Skipper Uttam Singh in the 59th minute to split the points with nemesis Pakistan. (IANS)