Jakarta, September 1: The Indian men's hockey team, gold medallists at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, salvaged their Asian Games 2018 campaign by defeating Pakistan 2-1 and claiming a bronze medal in Jakarta on Saturday (September 1).
Akashdeep Singh (3rd minute) and Harmanpreet Singh (50th) struck for India while Atiq Muhammad (52nd) scored the only goal for Pakistan.
After losing their semifinal in similar circumstances against Malaysia a couple of days ago, India showed composure under pressure to hold onto to their lead in the bronze medal playoff. Given that this win came against rivals Pakistan, who are coached by former India manager Roelant Oltmans, it was a sweet victory for Harendra Singh's team. Both of India's hockey teams will now return with medals from the Asian Games, but the women have bettered their record by claiming a silver.
India 🇮🇳 Men in Hockey in #AsianGames— Mohandas Menon (@mohanstatsman) September 1, 2018
Summary: G 3, S 9, B 3#AsianGames2018
"This is not the medal we wanted but we are not returning empty-handed at-least. The boys deserve applause for regrouping and showing character after the semifinal setback," Harendra told reporters after the match.
The early advantage provided by Akashdeep gave India the upper hand for most part of the game. It was a great team goal as Lalit Kumar Upadhyay showed exemplary skills in the circle to dribble towards the endline and then reversing it back for Akashdeep, who lifted the ball into the roof of the net to avoid the rushing Pakistan defenders.
Pakistan, however, put India under pressure in the second quarter and had a couple of chances to equalise. However, the tight-knit Indian defence kept the Pakistan attack at bay to go into the interval with a one-goal lead.
Our men's @TheHockeyIndia team takes home a bronze medal following a determined 2-1 win over Pakistan.🥉— SAIMedia (@Media_SAI) September 1, 2018
It was a campaign where our men were at their free flowing best scoring 80 goals in 7 matches.
Congratulations #TeamIndia!🎉#TOPSAthlete #AsianGames2018 #KheloIndia🇮🇳🏑 pic.twitter.com/TmcG9mTTsO
The third quarter too saw India defend their lead but they knew that it just wouldn't be enough against a resilient Pakistani side. Pakistan came out all guns blazing in the second half with Oltmans asking his boys to put India under more pressure. India hardly had a chance in the third quarter while Pakistan were just unable to breach the Indian defence.
However, five minutes into the fourth quarter, India won their first penalty corner of the match through Mandeep Singh. Making best use of the PC, Harmanpreet Singh coolly slotted the ball into the bottom right corner to double India's lead and giving them a much-needed breather.
Two minutes later, Pakistan fought back. The Indian defence was caught napping as a Pakistan forward rushed in to find himself one-on-one against PR Sreejesh and he squared to Atiq at the far post for a routine deflection into the goal.
India were again under pressure when Pakistan took off their goalkeeper Imran Butt for an extra outfield player in the final three minutes. Mandeep had a chance to help India score their third goal in the final minute but he faltered instead of passing it to the waiting SV Sunil in the circle.
Nevertheless, India hung on and secured the country's 30th bronze medal at the Asian Games 2018.