Jakarta: India maintained their recent domination over arch-rivals Pakistan with a fighting 2-1 win to bag a consolation bronze medal after a below-par semifinal performance at the Asian Games Saturday.
Akashdeep Singh scored a brilliant field goal in the third minute while Harmanpreet Singh extended India’s advantage in the 50th minute off a penalty corner. Muhammad Atiq increased the heart rate of Indian fans reducing the margin in the 52nd minute from a counter-attack.
But the Indians didn’t repeat the same mistake which they committed against Malaysia in the semifinals and managed to hold on to the lead to at least reedem some pride.
After the semifinal heartbreak, India seemed like a team on a mission from the first minute. After creating a couple of early chances, the Indians struck as early as in the third minute through Akashdeep, who fired the ball into the goal over Pakistan goalkeeper Imran Butt after receiving a measured pass from Lalit Upadhyay as the partisan Indian crowd went into a frenzy.
Pakistan almost equalised in the fifth minute but Atiq’s reverse hit could only find the right post. A referral was taken but it was adjudged that the ball had not crossed the goal line.
From there on, India were all over Pakistan in the opening quarter but could not extend the lead after Mandeep Singh missed an easy chance.
Pakistan came out an improved side in the second quarter, making more repeated forays into the Indian circle. They got two back-to-back penalty corners in the 22nd minute, but wasted both.
Against the run of play, S V Sunil got a great ball into the striking circle three minutes before half time but he could not beat the Pakistani goalkeeper.
More creativity was seen from India after the start of second half. A brilliant one two from Sardar Singh and Akashdeep set up a good ball for Sunil but he failed to slot it in on the run. Pakistan earned their third penalty corner in the 39th minute but Muhammad Irfan made a mess of it.
In the fourth quarter, India kept looking for the second goal with repeated entries into the Pakistani circle. They finally got the cushion goal from their first penalty corner in the 50th minute which was neatly converted by dragflicker Harmanpreet.