KUNTAN: India defeated Pakistan 3-2 in the final to earn their second Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament title at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium on Sunday.
India’s two second-half goals from Rupinder Pal Singh (18th minute) and Affan Yousuf (23rd) that were tied by Aleem Bilal (26th) and Ali Shan (38th) but Nikkin Thimmaiah (51st) scored the winner for the reigning champions.
Both Pakistan and India had entered the final with wins from shoot-outs in the semi-finals against hosts Malaysia and Korea respectively. This was Pakistan’s fourth consecutive appearance in the final of the event.
Amid the diplomatic feud between the two countries who are erstwhile hockey masters, the result of the match bore much more significance than the title.
And both the teams lived up to the expectations of the highly-anticipated clash.
However, it was India who started the match brightly as Pakistan looked defensive at the beginning.
Dominating the possession, Indian earn a penalty corner when Birendra Lakra played to the foot of a defender in the seventh minute.
But Jasjit Singh Kular’s flick went wide of the left post.
However, Pakistan didn’t take long to get into groove and two aerial balls — one to the top of the circle and another to the left of the circle — rattled the Indian defence. But Akash Chikte, standing in for injured premier goalkeeper and captain P. R. Sreejesh, was up to the challenge.
In the second quarter, India stepped up their game and they were rewarded. Penalty corner specialist Rupinder flicked high to beat Pakistan goalkeeper Amjad Ali in the 18th minute to mark his 11th goal of the tournament.
India moved in good rhythm and Talwinder Singh could have made it 2-0 when a move created by Thimmaiah was squared to him on the left but his reverse hit went above the bar on the right, with only goalkeeper Amjad to beat.
But India found the second goal two minutes later as Yousuf deflected in from close range a Ramandeep Singh’s square pass from the right after the latter was fed by Sardar Singh few yards behind the Pakistan circle.
In the third quarter, possession-play from Pakistan helped them create an opportunity for Ali Shan to tap one in and equalise the scores 2-2.
However, when it mattered the most, India held their nerves better than the Greenshirts and Nikkin Thimmaiah was their tormentor as he pushed one in from a cross in the fourth quarter.