Dhaka, December 22
India were made to toil hard before getting the better of arch-rivals Pakistan 4-3 in a pulsating contest to clinch the bronze medal at the Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament here today.
After topping the round-robin stage of the tournament with one draw and three consecutive wins, India were far from impressive in their last two games, and today the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallists had to play out of their skin to outwit Pakistan and finish on the podium.
After being stunned 5-3 by Japan in the semifinals on Tuesday, it was expected that India would come out much stronger against Pakistan today. They did press hard and created numerous chances, including 11 penalty corners, out of which they could convert only two. But they did just enough to secure a consolation bronze.
India took the lead in the second minute through vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh before Sumit (45th), Varun Kumar (5th) and Akashdeep Singh (57th) struck a goal each. Pakistan’s goals were scored by Afraz (10th), Abdul Rana (33rd) and Ahmed Nadeem (57th).
It was India’s second win over Pakistan in the tournament after their 3-1 win in the round-robin stage.
India came out attacking and secured as many as four penalty corners straightaway, the last of which was converted by Harmanpreet with a powerful low flick in the first minute.
Pakistan grew in confidence as time passed by and drew level in the 10th minute after sloppy defending by the Indians, in particular Harmanpreet, as he failed to clear a loose ball inside the circle, and Afraz did enough to get past onrushing goalkeeper Krishan Bahadur Pathak.
It was a close contest in the second quarter as Pakistan defended in numbers to deny India. In the 22nd minute, India secured another penalty-corner but once again, Pakistan goalkeeper Amjad Ali denied Harmanpreet.
Four minutes later, Amjad Ali was again in the thick of things when he saved Akashdeep Singh’s reverse hit from close range.
Three minutes after the change of ends, Pakistan surged ahead when Abdul Rana scored from a rebound from the team’s second penalty corner. India were lucky not to concede another goal, in the 43rd minute, as Rana’s attempt from Ali Shan’s pass hit the near post.
But three seconds from the third quarter, Gursahibjit Singh created a chance out of nowhere and Sumit found himself in the perfect position inside the Pakistan circle to tap the ball in and draw level.
With the scores level at 2-2, the fourth and final quarter produced end-to-end hockey from both the teams.
India had the better chances but Pakistan too didn’t give up without a fight. Lalit Upadhyay came close to handing India the lead, only to see his deflection sail inches wide of the target.
India secured two more penalty-corners soon and with six minutes left, Varun was bang on target to make it 3-2 for India. Pakistan responded immediately by earning two penalty-corners in succession but India skipper Manpreet Singh defended brilliantly as the first rusher. Three minutes from the final hooter, Akashdeep scored with a reverse hit from a pass from Upadhyay, making it 4-2, but Pakistan responded in no time when Nadeem deflected in a long ball to reduce the margin.
Two unnecessary yellow cards, to Hardik Singh and Sumit, in the last five minutes didn’t help India but fortunately, they didn’t hurt the side. — PTI
South Korea steal title with late comeback
South Korea emerged as the champions after beating Japan 4-2 in the shootout following a 3-3 stalemate at the end of regulation time. Trailing 1-3, South Korea scored two goals in the final five minutes. In fact, the equaliser came with just seconds left on the clock.
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