Jakarta, Sep 1 (IANS) India’s men’s hockey team defeated arch-foes Pakistan 2-1 in the bronze medal playoff at the 18th Asian Games here on Saturday.
Akashdeep Singh (third minute) and Harmnanpreet Singh (50th) scored for 2014 edition champions India, while Muhammad Atiq (52nd minute) scored for Pakistan, who had finished runners-up in the previous edition.
India shook off the disappointment of losing to Malaysia in the semi-finals as they got off to a flying start, with Akashdeep giving them an early lead. Lalit Upadhyay ran to the left byline before cutting it back to an unmarked Akashdeep, who put the ball in the net with a quick slap.
India built on the momentum as they made two more field goals attempts through Chinglensana Singh in the sixth minute and Mandeep Singh in the 14th minute but the Pakistan defence was alert to avoid a further lead.
The second quarter though saw Pakistan up their game and came up with strong attacking display as forwards Ajaz Ahmad, Muhammad Dilber and Abu Mahmood tested the Indian defence as they took powerful shots on goal.
They made plenty of chances in the circle and also earned the first penalty corner in the 21st minute but was well saved by India. Pakistan earned two more penalty corners in the same minute but were unsuccessful.
In the 27th minute, India strikers S.V. Sunil and Akashdeep took turns in attempting shots on goal with good stick work inside the circle but unfortunately could not convert. Akashdeep and Sardar Singh combined well for the former to cross at the right post but a diving Sunil cound’t control the ball.
The third quarter too saw Pakistan make two strong attempts on goal. First it was Ajaz Ahmad in the 34th minute but he missed the post by a small margin while in the 38th minute an Indian infringement saw Pakistan earn another penalty corner. The drag-flick, though, by the experienced Muhammad Irfan was very well-saved by runner Manpreet Singh.
Ahead only by a goal, it was a tense final quarter for India and they needed to up their attack to ensure they finished well.
Good stick work by Mandeep Singh in the circle saw him win India’s first penalty corner in the 50th minute. And young Harmanpreet made no mistake in putting the ball past Pakistani goalkeeper at the right post to give India a 2-0 lead.
Pakistan pulled one back within a minute as a counter-attack saw an unmarked Atiq receiving a fine cross from the right before sweeping it past a diving goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh.
India quickly earned a penalty corner, thanks to Mandeep Singh but Rupinder Pal Singh’s drag-flick was off target.
Though in the dying minutes of the match Pakistan kept the ball possession for longer spell, India did everything they could to defend the lead and win.