It was, perhaps, the best Indo-Pak encounter of the year as both sides enthralled their supporters with a performance that was truly in sync with the massive expectations that preceded the big-ticket event.
Indian coach Harendra Singh pointed out before the opening hooter that he wanted his players to enjoy the match, even as both sides kept their emotions under tight control, and displayed sheer passion instead, to play out what was, indeed, a contest to remember.
Much to the delight of the boisterous Pakistan supporters in the crowd, captain Rizwan Sr. scampered ahead in the opening seconds and earned a PC for his side even before the Indian defence realized what had transpired.
Aleem Bilal's drag flick was blocked but much like a poacher, Irfan Jr. was aptly positioned at the goalmouth and fired the ball past a hapless Sreejesh who was playing his 200th international.
Irfan's goal set the match up quite perfectly as the underdogs had the lead, and the onus was now on the higher-ranked Indians to display their mettle and attempt to draw level. Pakistan kept pressing hard looking to increase their tally, and the Indians seemed unable to get the final passes right in the striking circle.
Midway through the second quarter, the Indian skipper decided he had had enough. Manpreet charged down the center, weaved his way magically past a host of defenders, and sent the ball crashing towards the woodwork.
Imran Butt failed to charge him down as Mandeep was lurking near the post and it was unclear whether or nor the latter got a touch but India had the equalizer all the same.
The goal was credited to the Indan captain but Mandeep got his name on the scoresheet soon after half-time, as he latched on to a pass from Akashdeep, with his back towards the goal, and squeezed the ball between his legs into the back of the net.
Dilpreet scored at the end of the third quarter and the goal was effectively enough to end what had been an even contest until that point.
As a result of the win, the Indians are on top of the heap as far as the pool standings are concerned and will now take on Asian Games gold-medalists Japan.
Coach Siegfried Aikman, in an interaction with Sportskeeda earlier stated clearly that the Asian Champions Trophy was not a platform where his team was looking to reassert their continental supremacy, and in any case, are handicapped by the unavailability of six players who were part of the squad at Jakarta.
The Japanese have not qualified for next month's World Cup and are therefore looking to try out new talent with Tokyo 2020 in mind.
A four-day preparatory camp was all the players had before landing in Muscat, but Aikman's young chargers did well do outplay South Korea by a 2-0 margin after being undone by Malaysia in the first match where they went down 0-3.
As far as the defending champions are concerned, youngsters like Hardik Singh have been brilliant thus far, and the Indians will be keen to keep the momentum going. Harendra Singh's boys had demolished Japan 8-0 in a group match at the Asian Games and will be hoping for a repeat performance today.
Here is how you can catch all the action:
Event: Asian Champions Trophy 2018
Venue: Muscat, Oman
Date: 21 October 2018
Time: 10:40 pm Indian Standard Time (IST)
Telecast: Star Sports 2, Star Sports HD2
Live Streaming: Hotstar
Live Updates: SportskeedaPublished 21 Oct 2018, 13:06 IST