ACT: With nine men, India’s final quarter flourish fetches bronze | Hockey - Hindustan Times
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ACT: With nine men, India’s final quarter flourish fetches bronze

By, New Delhi
Dec 23, 2021 12:51 AM IST

Tokyo Olympics bronze medalists made to sweat by Pakistan who are ranked 12 places below.

India beat Pakistan in a seven-goal thriller to win a hard-earned bronze at the Asian Champions Trophy in Dhaka on Wednesday. Harmanpreet Singh (2'), Sumit (45'), Varun Kumar (54') and Akashdeep Singh (57') sounded the boards for the reigning Olympics bronze medalists, paving the way for a 4-3 result on a night of pulsating, high-octane hockey. 

India defeated arch-rivals Pakistan 4-3(Twitter/TheHockeyIndia)
India defeated arch-rivals Pakistan 4-3(Twitter/TheHockeyIndia)

Both sides wasted opportunities and in the end, India’s sublime attacking hockey in the final quarter, which they played with nine men because of two yellow cards, tilting the tie in their favour. 

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India raided the Pakistani circle early and were duly rewarded with a penalty corner (PC) in the first minute. Harmanpreet Singh’s drag flicks repeatedly found the foot of first rusher Ajaz Ahmed before the India vice-captain went to the right of goalkeeper Amjad Ali to score off his fourth attempt. 

Pakistan retaliated quickly, mounting an offence from the left flank. A defensive lapse from India was exploited and the cross expertly deflected in by the ninth minute by Afraz. 

The second quarter saw India wresting control in the midfield. Three PCs were thwarted by Pakistan custodian Amjad Ali. He first denied Harmanpreet’s regulation flick and was up to the task when the Indian PC expert tried a back pass to Jarmanpreet Singh. India earned their third PC of the quarter after the hooter but it stood since the foul had occurred in regulation time. It too was wasted as Shamsher’s injection went wide and Manpreet’s slap shot into the D was easily dealt with by Pakistan defenders. 

India had their fair share of misses in the second half too, bringing to naught some delectable passing. First, Akashdeep Singh dribbled into the D and passed to Shamsher, who lost possession. Then, Manpreet’s beautiful pass found Shilanand Lakra inside the circle. Lakra earned India’s ninth PC but that too was wasted. Minutes later, Hardik Singh collected a pass from Akashdeep and steamed into the D, but his Tomahawk was too quick for an onrushing Lalit Upadhyay to get a tap-in. 

The goal came at the other end when Pakistan earned a PC . Goalie Krishan Pathak saved the drag flick but the resulting rebound was poached by Abdul Rana and the green shirts led 2-1. India continued to press, and came close when Jarmanpreet managed to let fly a heavy cross from the edge of circle, but Dilpreet Singh’s deflection was off target.

With three seconds left in the penultimate quarter, Gursahibjit Singh created a goal out of nowhere. Pinned on the Pak baseline by two defenders, the 22-year-old showed remarkable composure and stickwork to retain possession. He spotted Sumit on the goal mouth and with a delightful turn, released the ball to him. The resulting goal meant the teams entered the final 15 minutes level on 2-2.

India dominated the last quarter with a defiant show of aggression and forward pressing. Attacking from the right, India parked men in Pakistan’s half and the relentless pressure earned them a PC that Varun Kumar converted to put India back in lead. 

Three minutes later, a fine run from Lalit and an unselfish pass to Akashdeep made it 4-2, the comeback man scoring off his trademark reverse hit. Pakistan’s response was swift, a smooth counter leading to a silken pass from just outside the D culminating in a clinical finish from Ahmed Nadeem. 

Making the most of India being two men light, Pakistan made a number of forays but some expert tackling and loose finishing though meant there would be no change in the scoreline. 

South Korea champions  

South Korea defeated Japan 4-2 in penalty shoot-out to win the title. The match ended at 3-3 in regulation 60 minutes and the Koreans kept their cool for their maiden Asian crown. Korea, who held India to a 2-2 draw coming from 0-2 down earlier in the tournament, equalised in the dying seconds before taking the title on penalties. Korea and Japan had met in the women’s Asian Champions Trophy earlier this month, with Japan trumping Korea 2-1.

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