By ND Prashant/Doha
Pakistan showed tremendous fighting spirit after losing their key player Shakeel Abbasi early on due to an ankle injury to beat India 5-4 in an electrifying encounter to clinch the Asian Champions Trophy here at the Al Rayyan Stadium yesterday. At half time India led 2-1.
Pakistan, thus, avenged their 4-2 shootout defeat against India in the last edition of this tournament.
However, the match was overshadowed with some substandard umpiring and has once raised the big question of having umpires who don’t have the nerve to handle such high intensity matches.
Korean umpire Shin Yun Dong reversed a stroke in the dying minutes, buckling under the pressure of the Pakistan team and a high drama followed after that.
Pakistan was leading 5-4 at that stage and a goal then would have certainly forced the match into extra-time. The decision being revised in the absence of a video referral was a complete surprise. Then it was the turn of the Indian team to protest and when Dong stood his ground, the team left the field in protest.
A good five minutes was lost, before the Indian team hesitantly made it to the field to play out the remaining two minutes on the request of their coach Michael Nobbs.
What was more disappointing was to see Dong argue with a section of Indian supporters who were protesting at his change of mind. “He (Dong) was asking us to come and officiate. ‘Why don’t you people officiate’ he told us. He was a clueless rattled man out there,” said an angry Indian fan.
However, nothing can be taken away from the way Pakistan played. Just five minutes into play and Pakistan’s star player Abbasi limped out of the field after twisting his ankle. Taking the onus on his shoulders was Mohammed Waqas, who was simply outstanding and walked away with the man of the match and top scorer of the tournament award later.
Pakistan struck off the first penalty corner that came their way in the 7th minute; Waqas, finding the back of the net with a clinical deflection. However, even before the celebration could end in the Pakistan camp, India struck back through a brilliantly crafted move by Birendra Lakra, who found SV Sunil lurking inside the D. The latter blasting the goal with a neat grounder.
India went on to widen the lead to 2-1 through their first penalty corner in the 21st minute. VR Raghunath went for the goal straight from the middle and saw his shot breach Pakistan custodian Imran Butt.
The match swung like a pendulum from one end to other in the second session. Trailing by a goal, Pakistan went all out and stuck two goals in quick succession to pile the pressure back on the Indian team. This happening after Butt had kept out a power-packed hit from Raghunath, from the second penalty corner that India managed.
Shafqat Rasool was the first to score. He despite having his back facing the Indian goal unleashed a powerful hit between his legs to breach the outstretched hands of Indian custodian P Sreejesh, who was a shadow of his self yesterday.
Then Rashid Mehmood put Pakistan in the lead with a neat connection of a penalty corner, the ball sounding the board going straight through the legs of Sreejesh. India then struck in the 55th minute through a brilliant deflection by Gurwinder Singh Chandi off a measured through by Raghunath and it was 3-3. More excitement filled the air with Pakistan once again taking a 4-3 lead through Waqas, his second one for the match.
Rupinder Pal put India back in the match by scoring off a penalty corner in the 59th minute. With the scoreboard reading 4-4, India managed another penalty corner but Butt struck his hand up to thwart the attempt from Pal. Pakistan, however, made sure not miss out the penalty corner that came their way in the 64th minute and led 5-4 after Mohammed Ateeq sounded the board. And had umpire Dong stuck to his stroke decision, the match would have probably gone into another thrilling extra-time.
“That last minute decision was atrocious and he completely spoiled the match. That goal would have completely changed the course of play. It was dying minutes and the umpire changed his mind, which was completely not acceptable. He went to ask the third umpire who was 30 metres away from that place and changed his decision,” fumed India captain Sardar Singh.
Indian coach Michael Nobbs also rated the umpiring as poor. “Throughout the tournament, the umpiring was of low standards and we had to bear the brunt in the end.”
Pakistan skipper Mohammed Imran hailed the team’s victory saying, “The team played like a unit after we lost Abbasi early. Everyone wanted to prove a point and it was a complete team effort. Such intense matches will do a world of good to India and Pakistan hockey.”
Speaking about the umpiring decision towards the end, Imran said, “These things do happen in matches. It’s a part of the game that’s all I want to say. Sometime decisions come your way and sometimes it goes the other way round.”
Earlier, Malaysia, who defeated India 5-3 in their last league match, managed a well deserved third place by rallying from a goal down to beat China 3-1. The star player Ahmad Tengku Jalil Abdul bagged the player of the tournament for his outstanding performance in the tournament.
Also Oman, after struggling all through the tournament, came up with an inspired performance in the fifth and sixth place match to beat Japan 3-1.
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