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Friday, December 7, 2012
Sports

India, Pakistan in semis

India grimly hung on to an early lead to prevail 1-0 over Belgium to advance to the semifinals of the Champions Trophy at the State Hockey Centre in Melbourne on Thursday.

The goal that settled the fate of the quarterfinal contest came in the 13th minute of the first shot India had at the rival goal.

Nitin Thimmaiah capitalised on a rebound to send a firm shot into the right corner of the goal. The rebound had come to Thimmaiah on top of the circle following Gurmail Singh's try off a cross from Birendra Lakra.

Earlier in the day, Shakeel Abbasi scored two goals to help Pakistan pull

off a surprise 2-1 victory over Olympic champions Germany and advance to the last four.

This is the first time since 2004 that the former champions, Pakistan have made it to the medal round of the competition. The Germans, meanwhile, have failed to enter the last four stage for the second successive year.

In the semifinals, Pakistan will take on Olympic Games silver medalists, the Netherlands, who posted a 2-0 win against New Zealand in the quarterfinals.

India had very few chances thereafter and were forced to fall back to defend stoutly as Belgians asserted strength in the midfield.

Belgium forced six penalty corners against India's one.

It was because of a fine display by defenders VR Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh, beside goalkeeper TR Potunuri, that India managed to maintain their lead.

Belgium had beaten India in their last two encounters -- in the final of the Champions Challenge last year and in the preliminary league of the Olympic Games in London.

India are now in the hunt for their first medal since their lone Champions Trophy bronze in 1982. This will also be

India's highest finish since 2004 when they had lost the bronze medal match to end fourth.

In the semifinals, India will take on the winner of the other quarterfinal match between four-time defending champions Australia and England.

Germany took the lead in the ninth minute through veteran Moritz Fuerste, who is one of the only three players from the London Olympic winning squad in the new-look German side.

Pakistan created a lot of openings, but were trailing by a goal at half-time.

Abbasi scored the equaliser in the 39th minute when he capitalised on an opening following the penalty corner. He was again on target in the 50th minute to put the team ahead.

But the match-winning goal was awarded only after a video referral went in Pakistan's favour.

The Netherlands and New Zealand encounter was a replay of last year's bronze medal tie, as the former had won then also. The Dutch opened the scoring in the 13th minute through a penalty corner conversion by Jeroen Hertzberger.

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