The final was everything fans hoped it would be as the two arch-rivals battled it out till the penalty shootouts before India overcame Pakistan 4-2 to clinch the first Asian Champions Trophy in Ordos, China.
The epic battle saw the two teams struggle for a goal and go at full-time deadlocked at 0-0.
Even the 15-minute extra-time failed to yield a result, taking the match to penalty shootouts that was held under altered rules with the striker taking on the goal-keeper from a 23-metre line for eight seconds.
However, it was India who emerged victorious after a better display in the breaker.
Meanwhile, Pakistan dominated the game in regulation time but could not find a way through the Indian defence.
Pakistan seemed to be missing their penalty-corner specialist and world’s leading goal-scorer Sohail Abbas as the Asian Games champions failed to convert a single penalty-corner out of eight chances created in the regulation time. In contrast, their opponents just managed to earn a single penalty-corner.
India came back strongly in the shootouts by beating goal-keeper Imran Shah four times through captain Rajpal Singh, Danish Mujtaba, Yuvraj Walmiki and Sarwanjit Singh while missing just once.
The Greenshirts managed two goals through Mohammad Rizwan and Mohammad Wasim while Shafqat Rasool and Haseem Khan’s misses cost them the trophy.
‘We were unlucky’
Pakistan manager Khwaja Junaid felt the team deserved the victory after the way they played the final.
“There was a clear factor of misfortune,” Junaid told The Express Tribune from Ordos. “We deserved to win because we kept India under pressure throughout the match,” said Junaid.
However, the Olympian was a pleased man after the team’s impressive run. “The final can be anybody’s game and our loss is not a matter of concern.
“Reaching the final with this young team is itself a big achievement and we are focusing on the positives since we have found various team combinations.”
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) praised the team’s show in the tournament.
“Losing on shootouts is not alarming,” the PHF’s Associate Secretary Rana Mujahid told The Express Tribune. “The PHF is satisfied with the overall performance of this young team for which the selection committee was heavily critcised.”
However, Mujahid said that the PHF would assess its decision after getting the tour report by the team management.
“We will know after the report if we missed the seniors or whether we have found a good combination.”
Samiullah hails performance
Olympian Samiullah Khan was content with the team’s performance saying the Greenshirts fought hard in the final.
“It’s always upto luck after the game goes past full-time,” said the former captain.
“The scoreline suggests the team worked hard and the performance was also impressive.”
Pillay says win will lift India
Legendary Olympian Dhanraj Pillay of India felt the Asian Champions Trophy title will lift the team’s confidence ahead of tougher tasks.
“It’s not a major title but still a confidence-boosting win,” said Pillay. “Both the teams were equal in terms of performance before India edged out Pakistan on the penalty shootouts.”
Ex-India captain Dhanraj Pillay
“It’s not a major title but still a confidence-boosting win. Both the teams were equal in terms of performance before India edged out Pakistan in the penalty shootouts.”
Olympian Samiullah Khan
“It’s always up to luck after the game goes past full-time. The scoreline suggests the team worked hard and the performance was also impressive.”
PHF assoc secy Rana Mujahid
“We’re satisfied with the performance of this young team for which the selection committee was heavily criticised. We’ll find out soon if we have found a good combination.”
Pakistan manager Khwaja Junaid
“We were unlucky. We deserved to win because we kept India under pressure throughout the match. But reaching the final is itself a big achievement.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2011.