Asian Champions Trophy 2018: Final, India vs Pakistan preview, telecast, date, start time and where to watch online
The subcontinental giants have set up a dream final at Muscat but not before they were put to a stern test by Asian challengers Malaysia and Japan.
India and Pakistan who had to go through the ignominy of playing the bronze-medal match at Jakarta will now battle for gold at Muscat in a repeat of the Asian Champions Trophy final of 2016.
Neither side had it easy, but while the Malaysia- Pakistan encounter was always expected to be a close one, it was the Japanese who sprang a surprise by giving the Indians a run for their money.
Siegfried Aikman's assertion that a knockout was vastly different from a pool game was proven right by a spirited young Japanese side as they made the Indians toil hard before Manpreet and co. finally booked their place in the final with a narrow 3-2 victory.
Hirotaka Wakuri found an equalizer for the Asian Games gold-medalists with a deflection off a drag flick in the second quarter barely three minutes after Gurjant Singh had given India the lead. Harendra's boys then had to wait until the 44th minute before Varun Kumar and Chinglensana Singh combined to execute a superb PC routine to perfection.
Dilpreet's goal in the 56th minute put the Indians in control but Hirotaka Zendana gave the defending champions a scare by reducing the deficit via a PC a minute later.
Thankfully for the Indians, Aikman's side could inflict no further damage, and the Indians are thus assured of a place in the final against arch-rivals Pakistan who beat the Malaysians in what was undoubtedly the match of the tournament.
Faizal Saari took a tumble to put Malaysia ahead even before ninety seconds had elapsed but all Irfan Jr had to do was to tap the ball into an unguarded side of the net to restore parity four minutes later.
In the twelfth minute, Aleem Bilal manufactured a monstrous flick which landed in the top right-hand corner of the net, while Abu Bakar made the Malaysians pay for a defensive error to end the first quarter with Pakistan leading 3-1.
Five minutes into the second quarter, Pakistan earned another PC and Aleem Bilal made no effort to try a variation - yet again, it was a lethal crack which landed near the roof of the net. Hassan Sardar could hardly conceal his delight as he exchanged high-fives with his boys on the sidelines while Rehan Butt clenched his fists in celebration.
Defending doggedly has never been Pakistan's strength, and they did not look to tighten up in spite of a three-goal cushion, preferring instead to continue their spectacular forays up front.
One goal from Tajuddin Tengku and another outstanding finish from Nik Rozemi reduced the deficit for Oltmans' side, and it was the Dutchman's turn to wave his arms in the air as Faizal Saari levelled things up with four minutes left on the clock.
A see-saw battle in the shootout had it's usual quota of hits and misses with Pakistan prevailing at the end of what had been a truly magnificent contest.
After having met in three pool games (Commonwealth Games, Champions Trophy, and Asian Champions Trophy), and one classification match at the Asian Games, it is for the first time this year, that the two passionate neighbours will vie for top honours in a final.
When India and Pakistan faced off in the previous edition of the Asian Champions Trophy in 2016, it was the 165th meeting between the two rivals. Pakistan had won 82 of those encounters while the Indians had managed just 52 victories before the Pahang tournament.
When India meet Pakistan in the Asian Champions Trophy final tonight, it will be the 176th encounter between the two sides, but while the Indians have now notched up 62 wins, Pakistan, incredibly, have yet to progress beyond the 82-win mark.
Yet, past records, whether recent or remote may mean little in a high-stakes final - especially since the Pakistan strikers seem to be regaining their Midas touch, and Aleem Bilal's drag-flicks seem to be getting ever-more powerful with every passing match.
Hassan Sardar's boys took the field without the services of Rizwan Sr. in the semifinal and the Pakistan captain is likely to also miss the final on account of a hamstring injury.
Tonight's clash may be the last meeting between the two great hockey nations this calendar year - unless, of course, India and Pakistan do end up crossing swords in a World Cup knockout in December.
Here is how you can catch all the action:
Event: Asian Champions Trophy 2018
Venue: Muscat, Oman
Date: 28 October 2018
Time: 10:40 pm Indian Standard Time (IST)
Telecast: Star Sports 2, Star Sports HD2
Live Streaming: Hotstar
Live Updates: Sportskeeda