India beat Pakistan 4-3 to win bronze medal in Asian Champions Trophy hockey

It was India's second win over Pakistan in the tournament after having beaten the same opponents 3-1 in the round-robin stages

Published: 22nd December 2021 05:20 PM  |   Last Updated: 22nd December 2021 06:50 PM   |  A+A-

India's Harmanpreet Singh, center left, pumps his fist after scoring during a men's field hockey semi-final match against Belgium at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

India took the lead in the very first minute through vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh (File Photo | AP)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: In the end, it came down to keeping a sense of calm when some of the others were intent on not doing. Down to nine men for the last four minutes of the third-place match between India and Pakistan at the Asian Champions Trophy, Akashdeep Singh, one of the most experienced players in this side, cutely finished from close range to open up a 4-2 gap. Pakistan did halve the deficit but eventually ran out of time as the final hooter cut through the winter Dhaka air.

The India-Pakistan rivalry in hockey exists only in name. Even though the latter have won more clashes overall, the former's recent superiority has threatened to make this a no contest. Barring the 2-2 draw at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, India have tended to wipe the floor against the Green Shirts. In other words, they had the wood over them. That trend continued in the group stages, with India beating them 3-1 on Friday.

Two minutes into the third-place encounter on Wednesday, that pattern threatened to play itself out again. Manpreet Singh & Co. had a raft of penalty corners and Harmanpreet Singh sounded the board to put India in front. What followed next, though, was off the script. Pakistan grew into contest and scored two field goals to take the lead. In isolation, it was a big moment because Pakistan had seldom led India.

Soon, the nerves started jangling from an Indian perspective. It was, one sensed, not what they expected. But to be fair to them, they didn't lose shape and knew chances would come. Led by the inspirational Manpreet, who ran the show from midfield, the World No 5 equalised on the stroke of the fourth quarter.

Varun Kumar, the team's other penalty corner specialist, scored from a set-piece variation to give them the lead. Pakistan immediately went down the other end to engineer a few short corners but their Achilles Heel — scoring from such opportunities — came back to bite them. Even though India went down to nine, they engineered a breakaway to put the match beyond doubt to maintain their iron-like grip in these encounters to sign off for the year with a second third-place medal.

Keeping in mind the bigger picture, coach Graham Reid will not lose too much sleep about the semifinal loss to Japan. For all intents and purposes, this was an experimental side, with quite a few players asked to show what they can do.

Now they will go on a short break before regrouping at the Sports Authority of India's campus in Bengaluru in the first week of January.


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