There was a buzz of excitement as both the Indian and Pakistan teams strode out to the Al Rayyan Hockey Stadium in Doha for the final clash of the 2nd Asian Champions Trophy.
The match lived up to its billing – fast-paced action with no shortage of goals but in the end it was Pakistan who had the last laugh, winning 5-4 in an absorbing tussle.
With this win, the Green-shirts exacted sweet revenge for their 2-4 defeat in the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy last year.
Muhammad Waqas put the Indian defence on high alert as soon as the starting hooter was sounded, slamming the advertising hoardings from close range.
The Green-shirts suffered a mighty blow in the 4th minute when their inspirational striker Shakeel Abbasi picked up an injury and was stretchered off.
Pakistan forced their first penalty corner in the 7th minute after Muhammad Rizwan was tackled by Vokkaliga Raghunath. Waqas made the most off the set-piece.
Two minutes later, S.V. Sunil restored parity for India with a fine goal as the match witnessed end-to-end action.
Sunil had another chance to double the lead but he bungled a superb cross from Chinglensana Singh.
Pakistan kept mounting raids at the Indian citadel but the Indians were not far behind in their riposte.
India were awarded their first penalty corner in the 21st minute and Raghunath converted it – scoring his eight goal of the tournament – to give his side the head start.
Towards the closing stages of the first half, Pakistan put the Indian defence under severe pressure. Rupinder Pal Singh stood like a rock, thwarting a number of attacking moves from Pakistan.
India earned their second penalty corner when the first half hooter was already sounded, but Pakistan foiled that set-piece as India went into half time with a 2-1 lead.
Pakistan levelled things early in the second half through Shafqat Rasool (42nd minute) – a goal that rejuvenated the Pakistanis who went hammer and tongs at the Indian citadel.
Captain Muhammad Imran gave Pakistan a crucial 3-2 lead converting their second Penalty Corner in the 48th minute to throw the onus on India to do all the catching up.
India fired on all cylinders and Gurvinder Singh Chandi, playing in his 97th international match, brought his team back into the contest sounding the board in the 53rd minute.
The Indian joy was short lived as Waqas scored his second goal of the match two minutes later as the match reached exhilarating proportions.
India were unperturbed by that goal and forced their second penalty corner in the 58th minute. Rupinder slammed home to make it two PC conversions out of two for the evening.
The burly Indian defender had another chance to put his side ahead from their second PC in the 61st minute but this he was off target.
Then it was Pakistan’s turn to earn their third penalty corner and Muhammad Imran converted it for the second time to help his side take a vital 5-4 lead six minutes from the final hooter
There was high drama towards the end. The Indians, who were angry with the Korean umpire over not being awarded a penalty corner, walked off the field with only three minutes to go.
Better sense prevailed among the Indians and play soon resumed. Pakistan held out the final few minutes to corner glory.Published 28 Dec 2012, 00:18 IST