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India win Asia Cup

rediff.com Sportsdesk | September 28, 2003 17:41 IST
Last Updated: September 28, 2003 19:53 IST

India won the sixth Asia Cup hockey title for the first time, beating Pakistan 4-2 in the final at the Bukit Jalil stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

Two field goals, two minutes from the end, enabled the Indians avenge the 2-4 defeat they suffered in the league stage of the tournament and emerge supreme in the eight-team competition.

The triumph also earned India a berth in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

South Korea finished third after beating Japan 4-2 in the third-fourth play-off match.

After a rousing first half, which saw both teams scoring twice each from penalty-corners, play was relatively slow in the second session. And just when it looked as if the match would go into extra-time and be decided by the golden goal or tie-breaker, India struck in the 68th minute.

The hardworking Ignace Tirkey, who had a fine match, broke the deadlock. He advanced down the right and on entering the circle despatched a rasping shot which beat Pakistan keeper Ahmad Alam hands down.

Pakistan made a last-ditch effort to fetch the equaliser by using the long overhead ball and throwing all men forward. But in doing so opened up their defence. With a minute to go, Baljit Dhllon tore down the right flank and centred the ball across the goalmouth, Prabhjot Singh, who had made a mess of similar chances right through the tournament, showed fine opportunism to deflect the ball into the Pakistan goal.

Indeed, it was a well-deserved triumph for India. They were clearly the better side and had more of the exchanges. For once, they held more possession, particularly in the final stages of the match, and used the width of the field to splinter through the Pakistan defence.

Pakistan, for their part, relied more on the counter attack, hoping to force penalty-corners. The ploy succeded  in the first half when they forced four penalty-corners and scored from two. But in the second session, they were hardly allowed a look at the Indian goal and not allowed a single penalty-corner.

India forged ahead in the seventh minute, even before the goodly crowd could settle into their seats. From their second penalty-corner, which immediately followed their first, Kanwalpreet Singh scored with a stiff hit.

But, from the restart, Pakistan hit back, scoring from their first penalty-corner through Sohail Abbas.

Thereafter the ball travelled from end to end as both teams set up a scorching pace.

Pakistan forced their thrid penalty-corner in the 14th minute when Rehan Butt used his experience to get the ball on Kanwalpreet's foot. Sohail Abbas made no mistake, finding the net with a high drag flick.

The Indians came by a couple of chances soon after but their forwards were unable to cause any damage.

But  in the 17th minute, they drew abreast following their third penalty-corner. Dilip Tirkey's hit was deflected by a diving Gagan Ajit Singh.

Early in the second session Pakistan had chance to forge ahead but India's keeper Devesh Chauhan did well to save a stiff shot by Kashif Jawad. That was, by far, Pakistan's only chance of the second period.

In the South Korea-Japan third place play-off, Lee Jung Seon scored a hat-trick for the Koreans, in the 32nd (pc), 52nd (pc) and 69th minutes after You Hyo Sik had put them ahead in the 17th minute.

For Japan, Takahiko Yamabori (29th min - pc) and Kenichi Katayama (58th min) scored.

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