Dhaka, Oct 22 (IANS) India will face Malaysia in the final of the Asia Cup hockey championship after a thumping 4-0 win over arch-foes Pakistan in their final second-round clash here on Saturday.
After the teams were deadlocked goalless at the half-time, India ran rampage with goals from Satbir Singh (39th minute), Harmanpreet Singh (51st) Lalit Upadhyay (52nd) and Gurjant Singh (57th).
India now have seven points from three games, while Pakistan are eliminated as they have one point, having suffered two defeats and a draw against Malaysia.
Second-placed Malaysia took their points tally to four after playing out a 1-1 draw against South Korea, who collected three points in total. Pakistan and South Korea will face-off in the bronze medal match on Sunday.
Coming into the match against Pakistan, India, despite having four points, were not guaranteed of a place in the final.
Pakistan, who had lost 1-3 to India during the pool phase, were expected to put up a stiff fight. They did show the hunger with a strong start against India by earning three penalty corners inside the first quarter.
Pakistan kept their defensive shape well as they did not allow India to have spaces in behind their defence which meant that the latter struggled to attack.
But India also won a penalty corner in the 14th minute which was scuffled by drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh.
The tempo of the match increased towards the end of the first quarter but the second quarter saw both the teams battle it out in the midfield.
It was India who got the first chance to take the lead in the 24th minute through Ramandeep Singh but the Pakistani goalkeeper Amjad Ali deflected his shot to deny the Indians.
India, Asia’s highest ranked team, then turned on the heat in the latter part of the second quarter as they won a penalty corner in the 28th minute. However the flick from Harmanpreet hit the crossbar as the teams ended the second quarter without a goal being scored.
The third quarter finally saw India penetrate Pakistan’s circle as their team-work led to a great goal in the 39th minute. Forward Satbir made a darting run on the right flank and passed the ball towards the Pakistan goal but the defenders failed to intercept it, conceding the goal.
India kept the possession well throughout the third quarter and dictated play as cracks began to open up in the defensive line of their arch rivals.
India had a glorious chance to extend their lead in the 45th minute when captain Manpreet Singh found Lalit free inside the circle but the latter could only hit a shot which was saved by goalkeeper Amjad as India kept their 1-0 lead after the third quarter.
India started the fourth quarter aggressively as Varun Kumar missed a chance to score when Gurjant Singh found him in the circle with a calculated pass in the 46th minute.
India won two successive penalty corners in the 48th and 49th minute, both of which were saved by Pakistan’s Amjad Ali with some heroic saves to deny the Indians.
Two minutes later, Harmanpreet converted a well-taken penalty corner to mark his seventh goal of the tournament.
India did not relent and went for the third goal in the very next minute. Lalit finished off a brilliant team move with a fierce backhander in the 52nd minute to make it 3-0 in India’s favour.
Gurjant completed India’s big win in the 57th minute after sweeping home a right cross from Akashdeep Singh.