Jakarta, Scoring once in each through Akashdeep and Harmanpreet, India downed Pakistan 2-1 to claim bronze in the Men’s hockey competition at the 18th Asian Games here on Saturday.
Playing before the exuberant fans who packed the stands again to cheer on the team India took the lead in the 3rd minute through Akashdeep who scored a super goal leaving the Pakistan defenders bewildered.
The former defending champions took another 47 minutes to increase the lead when Harmanpreet converted the first penalty corner which Indians were awarded.
Two minutes later Atiq Muhammad reduced the margin for the losers taking advantage of the rival’s defensive lapse.The match between the two arch-rivals however failed to produce the game for which they were once so famous.
The match was evenly divided but was devoid of that extra excitement which was early associated with such contests.Though Indians achieved an early break through the Pakistanis rallied back strongly and were unlucky not to have equalised in the sixth minute when Shafqat Rasool got an good chance and though his reverse shot beat the onrushing goal keeper Sreejesh but ball hit the post.The Indian retaliation was swift and incisive as Simranjeet and Sunil created an opening but failed to convert it into goal.
After being under pressure for few minutes Pakistanis got into attacking mode and Atiq got a chance in the Indian circle but he delayed taking the crack and missed a good opportunity.
Indians then intercepted a rival move and began rotating the ball to keep it in their possession.As the former champions found it tough to cut through the rival midfield, they took to scooping the ball. There were several good by Rupinder, and Vivek who created an opening for but Mandeep fumbled near the circle and his weak shot was cleared by the Pakistan defence.
Midway through the second quarter, the Indians suddenly fell back thus allowing their rivals to take over the mid field. The Pakistanis made flurry of attacks from the flanks but Harmanpreet, Rupinder were solid in the defence and foiled many attempts.
After the breather Indians tried to regain the initiative and they used their speed to keep Pakistan at bay, forcing them to use almost eight players at the back.
Muhammad Dilber however made few counter moves which forced to beef up their defence. Atiq cut through the Indian defence but his powerful shot missed the target. Pakistan at that stage got some momentum going.Shafqat attempted another shot on the Indian goal but the ball went goes off the stick.
This was the dominating phase for Pakistan in the match. They soon earned their first penalty which was followed by a 2nd PC but India wants a review. India’s protested and sought their first referral. However the video umpire up uphold Penalty corner decision.
The Pakistanis failed to make use of this penalty corner which led to a goal mouth melee but Sardar Singh clears the ball.With seven minutes to go in the third quarter, India came under pressure as Pakistan gained quite a lot of momentum.
India suddenly made a counter attack as Rupinder relayed the ball to Sunil whose shot was deflected off the GK’s pads. And India missed a golden opportunity to increase the lead.
However Pakistan goal Keeper Imran Butt brought off four grand saves all in a one-to-one situation.
The Indians maintained the relentless pressure as Sardar, Akashdeep and then Sunil made very incisive moves but all their efforts went a begging for the lack support from other forwards.
As timed ticked Pakistanis regrouped themselves and starting playing extremely well in the midfield, Pakistan earned their 3rd PC in the 39th but Manpreet Singh made a grand save.Pakistanis kept up the press as they defended well and forced the Indian midfield to yield space.Five minutes into the last quarter, India earned their first penalty corner and Harmanpreet made no mistake in sounding the board with a powerful low flick.
Eight minutes before the final whistle Pakistan reduced the margin through Atiq in the 52nd minute. Soon after India got their 2nd PC. But this time Rupinder’s flick is wide.
In the dying minutes of the match Sardar created an opening for Chinglensana whose deflection was superbly saved by a defender.
Before this match India and Pakistan had last met at Breda in the Champions Trophy where India won 4-0.