India registered their fourth win over Pakistan this year as a dominant display saw the side reach the final of the 10th men's Asia Cup hockey tournament on Saturday. India struck four times, three field strikes and one penalty corner, to set up a final face-off with surprise qualifiers Malaysia.
Having beaten their rivals thrice this year before Saturday, twice in the in the Hockey World League semi-finals in London and once in the pool stages here, India
With just a draw needed to book a spot in the final, India looked quite reluctant in the opening stages of the game as Pakistan were invited to have a go at the goal multiple times. However, Pakistan couldn’t make the most of it as they hit the post twice in a space of three penalty corners. In the other two times, India had a saviour in Akash Chikte who prevented Pakistan's clear-cut opportunities.
After things were a total disarray in the first two quarters, which saw India misplacing passes, giving turn-overs in the midfield and refusing to rotate the ball from flank to flank, the side found some cohesion from the third quarter. And Pakistan’s host of missed chances came back to haunt them soon as Satbir Singh opened the scoring in the 39 minute after receiving a back pass from Lalit Upadhyay.
India had regained the missing rhythm and pace and Pakistan looked like a side waiting to be hammered with an almost non-existing defence. Their custodian Amjad Ali tried to keep the side in the hunt for a place in the final with multiple saves late in the game, but India
India scored three goals in a span of six minutes through Harmanpreet Singh, Upadhyay, and Gurjant Singh to keep their winning record against Pakistan intact. Summing up India’s performance as two-faced, coach Sjoerd Marijne said, “It was difficult to understand what happened initially. I think when we go back; it will be good to understand the team as to what went wrong.”
India will face Malaysia next, who stunned South Korea with a 59th-minute goal to reach their first ever Asia Cup final with four points. Though India’s run so far makes them the clear favourites, another repeat of Saturday’s display can see things change fast.
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