Dhaka (Bangladesh), 21 October, 2017: India booked their berth in the Final of the Hero Asia Cup 2017 with a convincing 4-0 victory over arch-rivals Pakistan in the Super 4s match here today at the Maulana Bhashani National Hockey Stadium. Goals from Satbir Singh (39′), Harmanpreet Singh (51′), Lalit Upadhyay (52′) and Gurjant Singh (57′) ensured the top spot in Super 4s for India.
This was the second match between the two sides in the Hero Asia Cup 2017 as they have already faced each other in the Pool stage where India came out on top with a 3-1 victory. However, in the Super 4s stage, Pakistan started the match on the attack as they won three penalty corners inside the first quarter but could not convert any as the Indian defence was up to the task. Pakistan kept their defensive shape well as they did not allow India to have spaces in behind their defence which meant that the latter struggled to attack. But India also won a penalty corner in the 14th minute which was scuffed by drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh. The tempo of the match increased towards the end of the first quarter but the teams ended the first quarter goal-less.
The second quarter saw both the teams battle it out in the midfield as they looked to establish their authority in the match. It was India who got the first chance to take the lead in the 24th minute through Ramandeep Singh but the Pakistani goalkeeper Amjad Ali deflected his shot to deny the Indians. Asia’s highest ranked team then turned on the heat in the latter part of the second quarter as they won a penalty corner in the 28th minute, however the flick from Harmanpreet Singh hit the crossbar as the teams ended the second quarter without a goal being scored.
The third quarter finally saw India penetrate Pakistan’s circle as their team-work led to a great goal in the 39th minute when forward Satbir Singh made a darting run on the right flank and passed the ball towards the Pakistan goal which made its way inside the goal as the Pakistani defence failed to intercept it. India kept the possession well throughout the third quarter and dictated play as cracks began to open up in the defensive line of their arch rivals.
India had a glorious chance to extend their lead in the 45th minute when Captain Manpreet Singh found Lalit Upadhyay free inside the circle but the latter could only hit a shot which was saved by goalkeeper Amjad Ali as India kept their 1-0 lead after the third quarter.
India started the fourth quarter aggressively as Varun Kumar missed a chance to score when Gurjant Singh found him in the circle with a calculated pass in the 46th minute. India won two successive penalty corners in the 48th and 49th minute, both of which were saved by
Pakistan’s Amjad Ali with some heroic saves to deny the Indians.
India were dominant in the final 10 minutes of the match as they scored twice in two minutes to make it 3-0 in their favour. First, it was drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh who converted a well-taken penalty corner in the 51st minute to score his 7th goal of the tournament while the third goal was scored by Lalit Upadhyay as he finished off a brilliant team-move in the 52nd minute to make it 3-0 in India’s favour. India secured victory in the 57th minute when Gurjant Singh struck a fierce shot from the edge of the circle to make it 4-0 in India’s favour and register their berth in the Final of the Hero Asia Cup 2017.
On winning their sixth consecutive win against Pakistan this year, Skipper Manpreet Singh said, “First two quarters were not good. Our basics were not up to the mark. We missed quite a few passes. But we came back strongly in the fourth quarter. For me, it was important to play our game and not think about their game. We had to maintain our structure and we needed to stay calm and that’s what we spoke to each other in every quarter. For tomorrow’s final, we still don’t know who we will play but that’s not our concern, for us we want to maintain our structure and play our game.”