Hockey

India takes on Pakistan in final

MOVING AHEAD: India's Singh Rupinder Pal thwarts Khan Abdul Haseem in the crucial league encounter against Pakistan on Friday.

MOVING AHEAD: India's Singh Rupinder Pal thwarts Khan Abdul Haseem in the crucial league encounter against Pakistan on Friday.  

India staged a remarkable fight-back to hold arch-rival Pakistan 2-2 in a thrilling final league encounter and when Malaysia staged a superb come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Japan later in the day, it helped India reach the final of the Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament here on Friday.

Japan, which needed to win the match to make it to the final, led 2-0 at half time but its hopes were dashed with the Malaysians scoring thrice in the space of 24 minutes in the second session.

Japan's loss ensured that India booked a berth for the summit clash against Pakistan on Sunday. Pakistan and India emerged the top two sides in the tournament with 10 and nine points respectively after the round-robin league. Malaysia and Japan will again play for the 3rd/4th position as they finished on an identical seven points.

Slow start

Under seven degree temperature and chilly wind blowing, both India and Pakistan started off slowly testing each other on the flanks and in the midfield. At the break, both teams were locked goalless.

Five minutes after resumption, Waseem Ahmed intercepted an Indian move and won an infringement just outside the Indian striking circle. His cross into the circle went straight to an unmarked Muhammad Waqas. The Pakistan striker had enough time to send in a first timer that beat Indian goalkeeper Bharat Chhetri. It was India's first defensive lapse and they paid heavily.

Two minutes later, Shakeel Abassi and a host of Pakistan forwards moved in and won Pakistan's first penalty corner. Muhammad Irfan sent a flyer into the right corner of the net to notch up Pakistan's second goal.

India fought back as Sunil and Danish Mujtaba sped into the Pakistan striking circle and won their third penalty corner of the match. It seemed doomed to fail when Ignace Tirkey could not to stop the ball cleanly but he had enough presence of mind to tap it for Mujtaba who sent a perfect cross for Rupinder Pal Singh to whack the ball into the Pakistan goal.

With the scoreline cut to 1-2, India was back in the match and the men attacked with renewed energy.

They were egged on by the women's team and also by the Indian Ambassador to China who had flown into Ordos for the match.

As the match progressed, the field got spread out with Pakistan looking to build on the lead while India searched desperately for the equaliser.

Contentious goal

India had an opening in the 53rd minute when Manjit Kullu sent a full-blooded cross into the Pakistan striking circle. Mujtaba, with his back to the Pakistan goal, touched it with his stick and it sped into the Pakistan goal. The Indians celebrated but to their dismay the Kiwi umpire Simon Taylor pointed for a free hit to Pakistan.

The Indian players immediately protested with Mujtaba saying he had deflected the ball in. Simon went to the Korean umpire You Su Long and checked with him and after a minute of consultation awarded the goal to India. Pakistan did protest but Simon pointed to the centre for the match to begin.

The match was now getting bottled up in the midfield as both the teams were cautious in making moves. Man-to-man marking took over. Pakistan seemed more relaxed but the Indians did not want to lose and give away their fight for a place in the final.

India had their fourth penalty corner in the 59th minute but Rupinder Pal again went through the middle as the Pakistan rusher took the flick on the stick.

With eight minutes left in the match, Pakistan had a sitter when Abdul Haseem Khan trapped in front of the Indian goal and with Chettri caught on the wrong side sent the ball over the cross bar.

Indian coach Michael Nobbs rued that his side would have won had they converted the penalty corners.

South Korea will play China for the 5th-6th place after the two sides were locked in a 1-1 draw in the day's last match.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 7:47:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/hockey/india-takes-on-pakistan-in-final/article2439004.ece

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