Defending champions Pakistan maintained their winning run at the Asian Champions Trophy when they scraped past India 5-4 on Thursday for their fourth successive victory in the competition which sent them through to the final.
Mohammad Rizwan Junior scored the winner for Pakistan in the 53rd minute after India had come back three times to level matters at 4-4.
Pakistan stunned the Indian defence as early as in the second minute at the Gifu-ken Green Stadium with a field goal scored by Abdul Haseem Khan.
The young Indian side, who have fielded 13 junior players in the squad to give them exposure ahead of next month’s FIH Junior World Cup, drew parity in the 24th when Gurjinder Singh successfully converted a penalty corner before taking the lead in the 30th when Amit Rohidas converted another penalty corner by sending a low drag-flick into the left corner.
Pakistan, however, equalised at the stroke of half-time through a penalty corner conversion by Mohammad Imran.
Pakistan made a strong start after the change of ends and surged ahead in the 36th through Mohammad Rizwan but Indian skipper Manpreet Singh sent a soaring shot from the top of the circle after being put in possession by Malak Singh to level the score four minutes later.
Goals continued to rain as Rizwan scored his second field goal of the day in the 44th to restore Pakistan’s lead.
But India drew level once again when Malak scored from a field effort five minutes later before Rizwan Junior beat the Indian defenders to score the winner.
Pakistan’s victory left former Olympian Shahnaz Sheikh lauding the team’s performance.
“Pakistan has played tremendously well in the event but it is time that we should also include maximum number of youngsters in the team [like India did] to give them exposure for the Junior World Cup,” he told APP in Islamabad.
“On their current form, it seems that they should have no problems in being able to retain the title [they won in Doha last year].”
In Sunday’s final, Pakistan could face either hosts Japan, China or Malaysia.
Japan are currently second in the table after they beat Oman 4-0 on Thursday to move to nine points, three behind Pakistan and three ahead of Malaysia and China who are locked on six. Malaysia edged past China 5-4 in the third match on Thursday.