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Rediff.com  » Sports » Asian Games: India men win hockey gold; qualify for 2016 Rio Olympics

Asian Games: India men win hockey gold; qualify for 2016 Rio Olympics

Last updated on: October 03, 2014 07:17 IST

Kothajit Singh

India's Kothajit Singh, left, celebrates after scoring the equaliser against Pakistan in the Asian Games final. Photograph: PTI

India beat Pakistan 4-2 in the penalty shoot-out to clinch the men's hockey gold at the Asian Games, in Incheon, on Thursday.

The triumph, coming after the victory over South Korea in the 1998 Games' final, ensured the Indian hockey team a berth at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

In a nerve-wracking final, watched by a sell-out crowd, the arch-rivals were locked at 1-1 at full-time.

Pakistan drew first blood when unmarked Mohammad Rizwan broke through from the right and sounded the board in the fourth minute. 

India, who lost to Pakistan 1-2 earlier in the group stage, equalised eight minutes later through Kothajit Singh.

In the one-on-one shoot-out, Akashdeep Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Birendra Lakra and Dhramvir Singh scored for India, while Manpreet Singh failed to convert.

India's custodian and vice-captain, P R Sreejesh, produced breathtaking saves in the shoot-out to deny Abdul Haseem Khan and Muhammad Umar Butta even as Muhammad Waqas and Shafqat Rasool scored for Pakistan.

India and Pakistan players get into a heated discussion during their Asian Games final on Thursday

Players scuffle during the men's gold medal match between India and Pakistan at the 2014 Asian Games, at the Seonhak Hockey Stadium, in Incheon, on Thursday. Photograph: Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

The gold medal is India's third only in the history of the Asian Games.

India and Pakistan last played in the men's hockey final at the quadrennial continental games way back in 1982, at New Delhi's Dhyan Chand Stadium, when the latter emerged winners by a shock 7-1 margin after which the then goalkeeper, Mir Ranjan Negi, and deep defence was castigated.

Thursday's game was India and Pakistan's eighth summit clash at the Asiad. India won only two of them, the last of the triumphs coming way back in the 1966 Bangkok Games.

The Indians were by far the better side in the fast-paced match, but it was Pakistan who took the lead early against the run of play when Rizwan Sr scored from a lightning counter attack that caught the Indian defence napping.

Fed by Rasool from the right flank, an unmarked Rizwan Sr shot past the outstretched legs of Sreejesh.

Jolted by the goal, India went on the offensive, but the forward-line lacked finishing. They came close to equalising in the last minute of the first quarter when Ramandeep Singh was foiled by a brilliant Imran Butt in the Pakistan goal.

Later, S V Sunil missed a sitter off a rebound, his slap-shot sailing over the bar.

There were tense moments and the crowd witnessed a heated exchange between the teams following an injury to a Pakistani player in dying moments of the first quarter.

India continued their impressive display in the second quarter and secured their first penalty-corner in the 22nd minute, but Rupinder’s flick was brilliantly kept out by goalkeeper Butt.

The perseverance, however, bore fruit in the 27th minute when Kothajit neatly deflected home Gurbaj Singh's cross from the right to draw level.

In the third quarter, Pakistan were more aggressive and threatened the Indian goal. They won their first penalty-corner, but it came to naught as Sreejesh made a fine diving save to deny their captain, Muhammad Imran.

Immediately, Sunil forced yet another save from an alert Butt before Nikkin Thimmaiah's clever stick-work gave India its second penalty-corner of the match with just five minutes to go for the final hooter. Again, Butt came to Pakistan's rescue by denying Rupinder.

In the last few minutes, India went through some anxious moments but the backline held up well to take the match into the shoot-out.