Indian hockey is basking in glory.
ACT HOCKEY: Indian hockey team registered a 4-3 victory over Malaysia for an unprecedented fourth title.
And in the end, the fitter team won. For three quarters the Indians chased the ball, the game and the Malaysians, desperately seeking the elusive moment of inspired magic that would help them put ahead. It came in the 45th minute, twice over, and it turned the game on its head as India came back from a two-goal deficit to win 4-3 and clinch an unprecedented fourth title at the Asian Champions Trophy here on Saturday. The crowd may have been lukewarm at the beginning of the tournament but turned up in style for the final, treated to a thriller that appeared on course for an anti-climax before Gurjant Singh struck the spark that lit the fire.
It happened in the 45th minute, striking home from a goalmouth melee, and followed a penalty stroke seconds earlier as India, trailing 1-3 till then, levelled scores to make it even going into the final stretch. And then, it came down to the fitness, with India suddenly accelerating at will, running past the tired and cramping Malaysians with ease, taking control of the ball and the game and almost camping in the opposition half. It still took all the experience and a big slice of luck for Akashdeep Singh to beat Hafizuddin Othman, brilliant throughout, in the 56th minute for the winner.
Till then, though, Malaysia had been the one in control, dictating the pace of the game. India was edgy and disjointed, uncertain of itself, despite getting the opener in the ninth minute through Jugraj Singh's PC. While form and history was on India's side, the Malaysians were not bothered by either, pushing high and playing aggressive. They also used the flanks well to stretch the Indian players and long passes to bypass the Indian midfield. Malaysians constantly entered the Indian circle, threatening to score every time they did. Errors did not help India's cause - Amit Rohidas' lapse led to the second and third PCs that resulted in the second goal and Jugraj's unnecessary push led to the third.
The Indians, on the other hand, appeared in too much hurry to score and ended up conceding turnovers instead and the forwards were often off-position for the final touch, Othman doing his bit to fend them away. The Indian structure appeared shaky against the Malaysian challenge. And then, the stopwatch stuck the 45th minute. Reigning Asian Games champion Japan continued its Impressive performance and overwhelmed defending champion Korea 5-3 to clinch bronze in a repeat of the 2021 final. However it was an exciting match between India and Malaysia.
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