February 21, 2020
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Pakistan Clinch Series

It turns out to be a red-letter day for Sohail Abbas as the dreaded drag flicker's opening goal propels him to the top of the chart as the world's highest goal-getter. The joy is doubled as Rehan Butt's strike seals the match and the series in favour

Pakistan Clinch Series
Pakistan Clinch Series

Ace drag flicker Sohail Abbas emerged as the highest goalscorer in the world as Pakistan held their nerves to ward off a late resurgence by India and clinch the Friendship Hockey Series with a 2-1 victory at Amritsar today.

The win gave Pakistan an unassailable 4-1 lead in the eight-match series, the last game of which would be played in Hyderabad on Sunday.

Poor finishing returned to haunt India as they frittered away a number of chances, mostly in the second half, to lose the match played before a sizeable crowd at the Guru Nanak Dev University ground.

Abbas achieved the feat in confusing circumstances as the goal he scored in the eighth minute was initally disallowed by neutral umpire Amarjit Singh who thought the ball had gone over the post.

But as the Pakistanis protested, he consulted the other umpire Satinder Kumar before signalling in favour of the visitors.

On reaching the feat, Abbas, who broke Dutchman Paul Litjens' 267-goal record, waved to the the crowd and went down on his knee to kiss the turf as his teammates and rivals gathered to congratulate the 29-year-old penalty corner expert.

In a unique gesture, the Pakistani players sought a one-minute time out and crossed their sticks over their shoulders under which Abbas was made to pass, amidst loud cheers from the crowd.

Abbas, who had equalled Litjens' record in the fifth Test in Delhi, had to wait till the seventh match of the series for the distinction, which came in the 212th match of his career. Pakistan, who were leading 1-0 at half time, consolidated their position further when Rehan Butt scored his first goal on Indian soil in the 47th minute. Butt came up with a superbly executed reverse-flick after Mohd Shabbir hit from a set-piece.

India scored in the very next minute from a penalty stroke which was awarded when Arjun Halappa was stick-checked inside the Pakistani circle.

Desperate to win the match to keep their hopes for levelling the series alive, India failed to pose much of a threat in the first half even though they made a few incisive moves, courtesy the combination of Vikram Pillay and Halappa.

They suffered an early setback when Abbas scored the world record goal and though they tried hard for the equaliser, they were repeatedly denied.

Mid-fielder Pillay was a livewire, making some impressive efforts and in the process he gave the side more than one opportunity to level the score. But the Indians did no good to their cause by muffing those gilt-edged chances. In the 17th minute, Pillay came up with a fine interception in the mid-field before making a pass to Halappa whose cross into the circle could not be trapped by either Tushar Khandekar or Ignace Tirkey.

Nine minutes later, Pillay made a similar move, though this time on the right, and passed the ball to Tirkey who dribbled past a couple of defenders before hitting a powerful reverse-flick that was well stopped by goalkeeper Salman Akbar.

In between, the hosts earned a penalty corner but wasted it after Vivek Gupta stopped the push and passed it forward only to see Hari Prasad not in his place.

India's show was patchy before the break but they regrouped themselves to win a penalty stroke and two penalty corners in the second half.

Although they scored from the spot, Halappa overcoming some nervousness to hit the top of the net, they failed to take advantage of the penalty corners.

"We should have scored at least one goal from the penalty corners. But the variations we adopted did not work well," assistant coach Jagbir Singh said.


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