India secured their third Asia Cup title with a convincing 2-1 win over Malaysia in the final of the 2017 Asia Cup in Dhaka today. Ramandeep Singh and Lalit Upadhyay had put India in the driving seat but Shahril Saabah’s goal in the fourth quarter ensured a nervy finish to the final.
Ramandeep puts India in control early
India made the first opening of the game as Akashdeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh, with some quick passing, made their way into the D but SK Uthappa’s return pass proved to be too much for Ramandeep to get a telling touch on the ball. However, a minute later, India took an early lead through Ramandeep who got at the end of SV Sunil’s cross and efficiently put the ball into the net after hitting the post on the first attempt. With just over four minutes done, India
Super-sub Lalit extends India’s lead
After some edgy play by both teams in the first four minutes of the second quarter, it was Malaysia who created the first chance. A hard low-ball from the left wing ended up missing the far post, where two Malaysian players failed to get a telling touch on the ball. India’s first chance of the second quarter came through a PC that Ramandeep won after some neat stick work at the top of the D. Ramandeep pushed the PC and Harmanpreet, who had already scored 7 goals in the tournament, went for a low shot but the Malaysian defence managed to deflect the ball away from goal easily. India had a great chance to double their advantage in the afternoon but Akashdeep, instead of squaring the ball, decided to take the shot on and could only manage to win his team a penalty corner as the Malaysian keeper Kumar’s save was deemed as dangerous play. The resulting PC was saved by Kumar as the score remained 1-0 in India’s favour. Tenku was beginning to attack the Indian defence but the latter were holding their ground, not allowing any sort of penetration into the D. India decided to bring Lalit Upadhyay up front and the substitution paid immediate dividends as he got at the end of a Sumit cross to give India some breathing space. For the last seconds of the half, Malaysia tried to go gung-ho but could only manage a long corner as the hooter signalled the end of the first half of play.
Malaysia fail to punish India for missing a host of chances
At half-time, Indian coach Sjoerd Marijne was adamant that India would not take their foot off the gas stating that in modern hockey two-goal lead didn’t mean too much. After an injury concern for Ramandeep after the forward was caught on the knee through a deflected ball, Malaysia created a great opening on their right wing as Tengku found himself in some space but Dipsan Tirkey was at hand to clean up the mess. India went down the other end with some great play between Ramandeep and Sumit, but the two-time champions failed to finish the move off. A great run down the left wing by Sumit ended with the ball coming to Ramandeep but the latter failed to collect the ball cleanly and Satbir, who tried to beat a couple of players, ended up over-running the ball as India missed another chance. A slip in the Malaysian defence allowed Lalit to have a pop at goal but, with the forward facing the other way, failed to get his shot on target. As the third quarter came to an end, India had a great chance to put some gloss on the scoreline after Lalit’s pass for Ramandeep ended up falling for Sunil, after Kumar’s intervention. However, Sunil’s swing missed the ball completely and Malaysia
Malaysia fight back but India hold on to win
Realising they had only 15 minutes to save their Asia Cup dream, Malaysia started the final quarter brightly with Manpreet Singh deflecting the ball away from goal. They then managed to win a penalty corner and Faizal, who topped the goal scorer’s list coming into the final, put the ball just wide from a PC. Malaysia’s pressure finally paid off as some quick attack from the right wing resulted in Akash Chikte saving a shot but Sabbah was at hand to follow in the rebound. With 10 minutes to go, the game had turned into an exciting contest as it was Malaysia who seemed to have all the momentum. India used their experience to keep a hold on the ball for large parts of the game. But a mis-controlled long ball in the Indian D handed Malaysia the chance to level the game through a PC. However, the Indian defence held on to keep the lead intact. In the last couple of minutes, Malaysia lay siege on the Indian D, but India held on to end a decade-long wait in the Asia Cup with their third title.