x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

India beat old foes for semi spot

Sandeep Singh and Shivendra Singh struck two goals apiece and inspired India to a 7-4 win over Pakistan yesterday that secured the hosts a spot in the Commonwealth Games hockey semi-finals.

NEW DELHI // Sandeep Singh and Shivendra Singh struck two goals apiece and inspired India to a 7-4 win over Pakistan yesterday that secured the hosts a spot in the Commonwealth Games hockey semi-finals. India will take on England tomorrow, while Australia, the defending champions, face trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand. Sandeep converted two short corners and also set up Shivendra to deflect the third goal inside the first 20 minutes. Shivendra made it 7-3 when he rammed in off Raj Pal Singh's timely pass in the second half before Shakeel Abbasi reduced the margin for Pakistan.

Sonia Gandhi, the ruling Indian National Congress party president, and her son Rahul, who sat in the general stand, were among the 19,000 strong home team supporters at the MDC Stadium to cheer for the home team. "We had planned early attacks and the confidence went up when such a big crowd came in to support us," Shivendra said. "We knew nothing less than a win could take us through and I will never forget this performance."

Pakistan scored through Mohammad Imran's penalty stroke and field goals from Mohammad Rizwan and Rehan Butt. "We were not expecting such a performance," Zeeshan Ashraf, the Pakistan captain, said. "The big crowd made the difference as our defence completely collapsed inside the first 12 minutes." Pakistan, who won silver at Melbourne in 2006, ended up with six points and will now play for fifth place against South Africa.

Earlier, James Tindall scored in the 66th minute to help England to a 2-1 win over South Africa and top spot in Pool B. In a dramatic last match of Pool B, New Zealand rallied to salvage a 1-1 draw against Canada while three-time gold medallist Australia remained unbeaten and rounded off the group stage with a 7-0 win over Malaysia. The only blot in Australia's otherwise powerful victory came early when veteran Jamie Dwyer hit the crossbar off a sixth-minute penalty stroke. Luke Doerner notched a hat-trick off powerful penalty corner drag flicks for the world champion. The Canadians surprised New Zealand, holding the lead via Sukhwinder Singh's field goal for the bulk of the match until Hayden Shaw converted a short corner just two minutes before full time.

"It was pre-planned. I knew if I dodged the stick I'd have a free shot on goal, and I took my chance," Shaw said of his drag flick.