The Indian Men’s Hockey Team beat Pakistan 2-1 in an exciting, fast-paced match to win Bronze at the 18th Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang here on Saturday. It was goals by striker Akashdeep Singh (3′) and drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh (50′) that ensured India returned home with a medal.
India put behind the disappointment of not making the Final as they began the first quarter with positive intent. They were quick to shake off the early jitters against traditional rivals as they used quick-fire attack to penetrate the striking circle. The intent paved way to Akashdeep Singh’s scintillating field goal in the 3rd minute that put Pakistan on the back foot early in the game. India built on the momentum as they made two more attempts at field goals by Chinglensana Singh in the 6th minute and Mandeep Singh in the 14th minute but the Pakistan defence was alert to avoid a further lead.
The second quarter though saw Pakistan up their game and came up with strong attacking display as forwards Ajaz Ahmad, Muhammad Dilber and Abu Mahmood tested the Indian defence as they took powerful shots on goal. They made plenty of chances in the circle and also earned the first PC of the match in the 21st minute but was well saved by India. They were awarded two more PCs in the same minute but were unsuccessful. In the 27th minute, India strikers SV Sunil and Akashdeep took turns in attempting shots on goal with good stick work inside the circle but unfortunately could not convert.
The third quarter too saw Pakistan make two strong attempts on goal. First it was Ajaz Ahmad in the 34th minute but he missed the post by a margin while in the 38th minute an Indian infringement saw Pakistan earn a PC. The drag-flick though by the experienced Muhammad Irfan was very well-saved by Manpreet Singh.
Ahead only by a goal, it was a tense final quarter for India and they needed to up their attack to ensure they finished well. Good stick work by Mandeep Singh in the circle saw him win India’s first PC in the 50th minute and the chance was capitalised by young Harmanpreet Singh who made no mistake in putting the ball past Pakistani Goalkeeper. India’s 2-0 lead, however, was reduced to 2-1 with Muhammad Atiq scoring a beautiful field goal in the 52nd minute. It was a good counter attack that caught the Indian defence off-guard. The following minute saw India win their second PC, thanks to Mandeep Singh but Rupinder Pal Singh’s drag-flick was off target. Though in the dying minutes of the match Pakistan kept the ball possession for longer spell, India did everything they could to defend the lead and win.