A ‘hard-fought’ win
Tempers flared up and archrivals India and Pakistan came to blows before the hosts and defending champions marched into the final of the junior Asia Cup hockey tournament with a 3-1 verdict at the Gacchibowli Stadium in Hyderabad on Wednesday. India will now take on South Korea in the final.
Once again it was India's best bet, drag-flicker Diwakar Ram, who led India into the title round, striking a brace in the second half. But before Diwakar Ram struck in the 38th and 47th minute, play was held up for more than 10 minutes when Pakistan defender Kahsif Ali turned violent following heated exchange of words with Indian forward S.V. Sunil. In a free for all, players of both sides chased and rained blows on each other.
But, before things could get out of hand, officials rushed in and took control of the situation.
The proceedings resumed after 10 minutes with umpires Marcen Grochal of Poland and Al Wahidi Fahim of Oman benching Pakistan's Muhammad Irfan for 10 minutes. Earlier, Gurwinder Singh Chandi scored a field goal to give India the lead in the 16th minute.
Pakistani was a transformed side on Wednesday, playing a fast-paced game, quite opposite to the languid and lethargic show they put up in the group phase of the tournament.
They gave a tough time to Indian goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh in the first 15 minutes and the defenders found it extremely difficult to tackle forwards Muhammad Taufeeq and Inayat Ullah. In the very first minute, Pakistan earned a penalty-corner, but it went abegging. Three minutes later, Abdul Haseem Khan's shot barely missed the target.
This proved to be a wake-up call for the Indians, who started attacking, catching the opposition off-guard. Taking advantage of the situation, Gurwinder Singh Chandi put India ahead in the 16th minute. Roshan Minz centred the ball for Chandi and, in a flash, he homed it with a reverse-hit, leaving custodian Imran Shah stranded.
After the ruckus in the 31st minute, it was the turn of ace drag-flicker Diwakar Ram to show his class. He converted the team’s second penalty-corner in the 38th minute, before netting his second — and India’s third — in the 47th minute also from a PC.
But before that, Pakistani drag-flicker Kahsif Ali reduced the margin, converting a PC in the 42nd minute.
S.V. Sunil and Gurwinder were simply outstanding on Wednesday. Playing in tandem, the duo kept the Pakistan defenders hassled, especially in the second half. Indian coach A.K. Bansal expressed his happiness at the win, but hauled up his boys for the unsavoury episode. “It (the heated exchange) is not acceptable…It wasn't a school match. The boys should have realised that it was an international match. I have told the boys not repeat such thing.
“Indian players should not have reacted like this when we were leading 1-0. It could have affected our performance,” he said.
He also patted the boys saying, “After such a spirited performance, we should win the tournament. Undoubtedly, it was a tense match and we played well. The forwards were well organised and Diwakar was fascinating.” The game’s ad hoc committee chairman, Suresh Kalmadi, congratulated the team for its fine performance and hoped India would retain the title. He also sent congratulatory messages to Bansal and captain Gurbaz Singh.
Korea get past Japan
Under lights, Former champions South Korea brushed aside the challenge of Japan 4-2. Nam Hyun Woo scored all the four goals, including three from PCs, while Kenji Kitajato netted both the goals for Japan. In the, classification match Malaysia beat Oman 5-1.
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