India on Sunday ended their 10-year wait for continental triumph when they beat a gutsy Malaysia 2-1 in a nail-biting final to clinch their third Asia Cup hockey title.
India, which won the Asia Cup last time in 2007 in Chennai, scored from field efforts through Ramandeep Singh (3rd minute) and Lalit Upadhyay (29th) to dash Malaysian hopes. Malaysia were in summit clash for the first time since tournament’s inception.
The ever-improving Malaysians, however, fought valiantly and didn’t give up for a single minute. Their efforts bore fruit in the 50th minute when Shahril Saabah pulled one goal back.
The Indians, ranked sixth in the world, were in for nervous last 10 minutes but the defence did enough to hold on to the lead.
Pakistan won the bronze medal after edging out Korea 6-3 in the third-fourth place play-off match earlier in the day.
For India’ new chief coach Marijne Sjoerd, it was perfect start to his stint as the Asia Cup was his maiden tournament in charge of the senior national side.
The top-ranked Indians finished unbeaten in the tournament, having won all their matches except for the 1-1 draw against Korea in the Super 4s stage.
Today’s win was India’s second victory over Malaysia in the tournament, having beaten them 6-2 in the Super 4s stage.
For Malaysia, it was their best result in the tournament. They had earlier won the bronze in the 2007 edition of the event in Chennai.
The Indians came out all guns blazing and took the lead as early as the third minute through Ramandeep, who scored from a rebound after his initial deflection from SV Sunil’s cross hit the post.
Chinglensana Singh’s reverse hit from close range then went wide as India wasted a golden chance.
It was a battle fought on even keel between the two teams as Malaysia secured their first penalty corner in the 13th minute but wasted it.
Harmanpreet Singh was then denied by Razie Rahim as he made a goalline save to keep out the Indian defender’s flick from India’s first penalty corner.
Minutes later Malaysian goalkeeper Kumar Subramaniam made double save — first kept out Akashdeep Sinh’s shot and then denied Amit Rohidas from the resultant set piece.
A minute before the half time, Lalit doubled India’s lead when he beautifully deflected home Sumit’s reverse hit cross from the left flank.
After the change of ends, Lalit and Ramandeep came tantalisingly close to extending India’s tally of goals but their shots from inside the D were off target.
Down by two goals, the Malaysians came out all guns blazing in the fourth and final quarter in search of the equaliser and gave the Indian defence a run for their money.
After wasting their second penalty corner, Malaysia came back into the match when Saabah scored from close range in the 50th minute as the Young Indian defence wilted under pressure for a second.
In the form of their third penalty corner, Malaysia had a golden opportunity to take the match into shoot-out but the Indian defence stood tall to maintain their slender lead.