India fall a stroke short

Agencies Posted: Dec 28, 2012 at 0126 hrs
Doha India have never beaten Pakistan twice in the same tournament. Pakistan ensured India didn\'t defend their title by beating them 5-4 in an incident-filled final of the Asian Champions Trophy in Doha.

Mohammad Imran scored the decisive goal for Pakistan (64th minute) in a match of swinging fortunes that had a touch of controversy when Indian players walked off the pitch in the 66th minute before being coaxed by coach Michael Nobbs to carry on playing.

Down 4-5 and with only four minutes remaining, India missed a close chance after Danish Mujtaba failed to finish off a well-worked move.

However, a foul by a Pakistani player inside the D meant the referee awarded a penalty stroke to India.

However, much to their disbelief, the referee standing at the far end of the field overruled the original decision and instead, a free hit was awarded to Pakistan. The decision infuriated the Indians, who were soon all over the referee.

With the two Korean umpires, Jang Jung Min and Shin Dong Yun, refusing to change their mind, the Indian players walked off the pitch in protest with three minutes left to play. Coach Nobbs, a silent spectator from the sidelines till then, urged his boys to take the field again and play finally resumed after a stoppage of nearly five minutes.

The controversy seemed to have helped the Pakistani players regroup while the frustration and desperation on the part of Indian players was apparent.

Fast-paced game

The incident completely overshadowed what was an enthralling hockey match, with both sides showing plenty of skill to force goals. India had beaten Pakistan in the final of this tournament in Ordos last year and Pakistan were eager for revenge.

Muhammad Waqas put Pakistan ahead in the seventh minute, deflecting the ball from a penalty corner. But the joy was short-lived for Pakistan as SV Sunil scored his fourth goal of the tournament and restored parity just two minutes later.

The two early goals set the tone for the rest of the match, with both sides leaving no stones unturned in terms of attacks. India went 2-1 up in the 21st minute, thanks to a brilliantly taken drag-flick by VR Raghunath. India could have opened up a two-goal lead right at the stroke of half time when they got another corner, but Pakistan survived the scare.

Pakistan began the second half well and were soon rewarded as Shafqat Rasoon scored in the 42nd minute to level the scores. Six minutes later, Imran\'s drag-flick gave Pakistan 3-2 lead.

With the momentum in their favour, Pakistan heaped relentless pressure on the Indians. But for a couple of stunning saves made by PR Sreejesh, Indians could have been out of contention by the hour mark. Instead, what unfolded was simply amazing. Three goals were scored in the space of four minutes, setting up the match for a perfect finish.

First, Gurwinder Singh Chandi provided India the equaliser against the run of play in the 55th minute. Waqas then put Pakistan ahead for the third time in the match in the 57th minute before Rupinder Pal Singh equalised for India in the 59th.

Imran\'s goal five minutes later sealed the deal for Pakistan.

This was the second time this month that India lost to their arch-rivals in a medal match. They had tasted defeat in the bronze medal match of the Champions Trophy in Melbourne too.