This piece was published in Sportskeeda
The last time the two teams met in the Asian Games final was thirty two years back when India were inflicted a 1-7 mauling by Pakistan in their own backyard in Delhi. Clearly, the stakes are always sky-high when both these teams face each other and, it was not any different at the Seonhak Hockey Stadium on Thursday as India huffed and puffed their way to a 4-2 win in a pulsating penalty shootout bagging the country’s third Asian Games hockey gold – their first in sixteen years.
The dramatic shootout after both teams were locked 1-1 in regulation time, saw India find the target through Akashdeep Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Birendra Lakra and Dharamvir Singh while Manpreet Singh missed as they won 4-3 (1-1). Indian goalkeepr PR Sreejesh did the star turn in the shootout thwarting the Pakistanis to no end.
India appeared to mean business from the starting hooter holding possession, before Pakistan silenced them with a Muhammed Rizwan Senior goal in the 4th minute. Stung by the early goal, India regrouped for the equalizer, but SV Sunil missed an absolute sitter as Pakistan held the advantage at the end of the first quarter. India continued to attack in waves and forced their first penalty corner, but Pakistan shot stopper Imran Butt churned out a superb flying save off a fierce drag-flick by Rupinder Pal Singh. India’s The sustained pressure applied by India bore fruit when Kothajit Singh restored parity in the 28th minute off a Gurbaj Singh cross amid a goalmouth melee as both teams went into half-time 1-1.
India maintained their offensive intent in the second half and looked promising to go ahead when SV Sunil sprinted down the centre and fed Dharamvir Singh, whose return pass meant for the former came to nothing. Pakistan had a chance to regain the lead when they forced a short corner, but Sreejesh thwarted that attempt. India gave the Pakistan defence several nervous moments, but they held firm. Goalkeeper Imran Butt denied India the match-winner off the latter’s second penalty corner five minutes from the final hooter when foiled Rupinder’s drag-flick with aplomb.