Guwahati: A lacklustre India suffered a 1-2 defeat at the hands of arch-rivals Pakistan in their much-anticipated group match of men's hockey event at the 12th South Asian Games here on Monday.
Muhammad Arslan Qadir scored both the goals for Pakistan in the 11th and 37th minutes while Indian captain Mandeep Antil pulled one back in the 55th minute of the match at the Moullana Tyabulla Stadium.
The much-awaited match of the Games played between second string sides of the two countries did not rise to any heights as there were few very goal-scoring chances.
There was not much spark either on the field as both sides lacked creativity for most of the time. This was the first time both sides were playing against each other after the controversy in the 2014 Champions League match in Bhubaneswar.
The Indian side, without a host of top stars, lacked coordination and had mispasses galore as they have not played together often and the defence was vulnerable.
The two sides are though expected to play in the final again on February 12 as they should finish first and second after the round robin league of the four teams taking part in the Games.
There was not much to differentiate between the two sides in the first half, though Pakistan had slight edge. The inexperienced Indian defence gave space to the Pakistan forwards especially at the right flank.
From one such early raid, Pakistan took the lead in the 11th minute. In a fast build-up deep from Pakistan half, Fareed Ahmed sent a pass to Muhammad Arslan Qadir whose push on the run beat Indian goalkeeper Pankaj Rajak.
India had a chance to equalise three minutes from the first half as they got a penalty corner but leave along taking a strike, Umar Mohammad did not even take the push properly to the penalty corner stopper and thus wasted it.
Pakistan made it 2-0 within two minutes of resumption with the Indian defence once again found wanting. Muhammad Arslan Qadir was left to take a free strike for Pakistan's second goal in the 37th minute.
India forced one penalty corner very soon but failed to score from that as Gagandeep Singh's strike was blocked by the goalkeeper.
It was left to captain Mandeep Antil to pull one back for India as he connected an Abbay Ekka long hit with a diving effort. India made some last-ditched efforts to find the equaliser but the attack lacked teeth against a Pakistani defence well manned by captain Muhammad Irfan.