When Dharamvir Singh found the goal past Imran Butt Thursday evening, it was the end of a 48-year-long wait. India had beaten Pakistan in the Asian Games final — the first time after 1966.
While it took Indian men 16 years to reclaim Asiad hockey gold, which also earned them a direct berth to the 2016 Rio Olympics, the women’s 4x400m relay quartet set a Games record of 3 minutes 28.68 seconds, winning the title a fourth time running.
The hockey final lived up to its top-billing, with arch-rivals refusing to give an inch and playing out a 1-1 draw in regulation time. India then held their nerve to win the shootout 4-2 and clinch their first gold since the 1998 Bangkok Games.
Though India had finished runners-up in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, there was tension in the air after their 1-2 defeat against Pakistan in the group stage.
And concerns grew after Muhammad Rizwan Sr put defending champions Pakistan ahead in the third minute.
Congrats to Indian men's hockey team & women 4x400m relay team for having won gold medals in Asian Games #PresidentMukherjee— President of India (@RashtrapatiBhvn) October 2, 2014
However, Kothajit Singh equalised in the 27th minute and an experienced India, cheered on by hundreds of fans, were brimming with confidence going into the penalty shootout.
For India, Akashdeep Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh and Birender Lakra slotted home, showing neat tactics. India erupted in celebrations when Dharamvir’s flick home put the game beyond Pakistan’s reach.
Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh was India’s hero. He thwarted Abdul Haseem Khan and Umar Bhutta, with only Muhammad Waqas and Shafqat Abbasi managing to convert.
We are going to the OLYMPICSSSSSSSSS GOLD MEDALISTS— Sardar Singh (@8_SardarSingh) October 2, 2014
The last time India beat Pakistan in an Asian Games hockey final was at Bangkok in 1966. Since then, they had lost five times to their traditional rivals in the title clash, the most painful one being the 1-7 rout at New Delhi in 1982.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the praise for India’s performances. “Very good day for India at the Asian Games. Congrats to our hockey team and congrats to our women athletes for the gold in 4x400 metres relay,” he said.
Very good day for India at the Asian Games. Congrats to our Hockey Team & congrats to our women athletes for the Gold in 4x400 metres relay.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 2, 2014
Sreejesh dedicated the triumph to the Indian Army while India’s Australian coach Terry Walsh set his sights on the team getting better for the Olympics in two years. “This is a special moment for Indian hockey. It’s a big moment for the players and my congratulations to them,” he said.
The defeat prolonged the misery for Pakistan, who failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup and now face a hazardous qualification road to Rio.