Antwerp (Belgium): Indian hockey coach Paul van Ass was satisfied at the way his team played in the 2-2 draw with arch-rivals Pakistan in the preliminary league of the World League semifinals here on Friday.
India's Gurmail Singh, right, competes for the ball with Pakistan's Waqas Muhammad. (Photo: AP)
"It was an electrifying contest and produced a good result," said van Ass, for whom this was the first time he was involved with an India-Pakistan encounter that had the biggest audience in international hockey.
Ramandeep Sigh scored two outstanding field goals in the 13th and 39th minutes for India, while both goals for Pakistan came from captain Muhammad Imran, who first converted a penalty stroke in the 28th and then sent a rising drag-flick into the net in 37th.
India's Ramandeep Singh celebrates scoring against Pakistan. (Photo: AP)
India were threatening to score a late match-winner in the dying stages when they had three cracks at the Pakistan goal, but were erratic in their marksmanship.
Ramandeep came close to capping his fine day with a hat-trick but sent a misdirected shot wide in the penultimate minute. "I'm very happy to see Ramandeep produce the goals. I think the draw was a fair result as India had an edge in the first and fourth quarters, while Pakistan enjoyed an edge in the second and third quarters," said van Ass.
India's Manpreet Singh, left, competes for the ball with Pakistan's Muhammad Rizwan Sr. (Photo: AP)
Van Ass, the former Dutch coach who recently took over the Indian team, said his wards are shaping well. It was his confidence in the young players that allowed him to again keep penalty corner specialist Rupinder Pal Singh on the sidelines.
Rupinder, who was injured in the practice matches here ahead of the tournament, has not played in all the three matches. This has reduced the potency of India's penalty corner execution.
"I think the boys are doing well, and that was out target for this tournament," said van Ass, who has the luxury of India having already earned a passage to the 2016 Olympics after winning the Asian Games in Incheon last year.
"We have to focus on the Olympics, but the team wants to perform well along the way," he said.
India now have seven point from three matches, ahead of Sunday's encounter against World champions Australia, who have easily won all their matches, including a big victory over Pakistan.
Pakistan coach Shahnaz Sheikh said he wanted three points from this match, but was happy the way his team had played. "This was the best match of the tournament and an exhibition of classic hockey," said Shahnaz....