Dhaka (Bangladesh), Dec. 22: Resilient India came back from behind to beat arch rivals Pakistan in the third/ fourth placing match here at the Hero Men's Asian Champions Trophy.
The Indian team led by Manpreet Singh ended their campaign with a third-place finish at the prestigious continental tournament. It was goals by Harmanpreet Singh (2'), Sumit (45'), Varun Kumar (54') and Akashdeep (57') that helped India beat Pakistan in a match that lived up to the billing with some tense moments.
Earlier in the match, India was quick to get off the blocks in the first quarter, making inroads into the Pakistani circle with intense attack. The tactic worked, as India successfully won a PC in the second minute of the game. Though Pakistani first rusher Ajaz Ahmad made an effective run-in to stop India from scoring, Harmanpreet Singh found the back of the net in his fourth attempt.
However, India couldn't retain this 1-0 lead for long as Pakistan was quick to retaliate when a defensive error that allowed their attacker Afraz to make a quick attempt on goal. He was successful in putting the ball past India's goalkeeper, fetching his team the much-needed 1-1 equaliser.
Pakistan found yet another opportunity to score in the 13th minute when they won their first PC of the match but an alert Krishan Pathak warded off the danger with a brilliant save.
Having started the second quarter in a 1-1 stalemate, the two Asian heavyweights traded opportunities to score but neither was successful. It was after the 10-minute half-time break that the teams returned with more fuel power in their attack.
First, it was Pakistan who scored in the 33rd minute to claim a 2-1 lead with a brilliant goal by their young midfielder Abdul Rana, who led the Pakistani Junior team at the recent FIH Odisha Hockey Men's Junior World Cup in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. He picked up a rebound off a PC to send the ball swiftly past the Indian goalkeeper Pathak.
Though India created a few chances to score in the later part of this quarter, they could not convert. But the defending Champions did well to hold their nerves and scored some sensational goals in the final moments of the match that saw them snatch the lead back from their opponents. It was midfielder Sumit who earned India an important goal in the 45th minute after he was tactfully assisted by forward Gursahibjit who beat three Pakistani defenders on the left flank to set up the goal. This helped India equalise the score to 2-2.
In the 54th and 57th minute, India scored through Varun Kumar's PC and Akashdeep Singh's fine field goal that sealed the match in India's favour. Though Pakistan made great attempts in the dying minutes, they could only muster one goal in the 57th minute through Moin Shakeel but India's defence protected their 4-3 lead with all their might to ensure they returned home with a third-place finish in the Hero Men's Asian Champions Trophy.
Source: Hockey India