ORDOS (CHINA), Sept 11 (PTI): Goalkeeper S Sreejesh stole the limelight with two crucial saves as India defeated arch-rivals Pakistan 4-2 via penalty shootout in a nerve-wrecking final to clinch the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament here today.
The high-voltage summit clash was marred by Pakistan coach’s unwarranted action of constantly abusing Indian players from the roof of the stadium. Whenever there was an infringement from the Indian side, he used the ‘F’ word liberally. And whenever the umpires blew against India, he hollered ‘Thank You’.
Rajpal Singh, Danish Mujtaba, Yuvraj Walmiki and Sarvanjit Singh scored for India in the penalty shootout while Muhammad Rizwan and Waseem Ahmed sounded the board for Pakistan after both the sides were locked goalless in the normal and extra time.
India started the shootout on a wrong note when Pakistan goalkeeper Imran Shah saved the shot from Gurwinder Singh Chandi. Sreejesh then came to the fore with a save off Haseem Abdul Khan. It was then Mujtaba’s turn and he neatly sent the ball past Shah to give India 1-0 lead. Pakistan equalised when Rizwan scored but Indian captain Rajpal slotted the ball home to give his side 2-1 up. Then came the crucial save by Sreejesh as he stopped Shafqat Rasool from scoring, advancing and taking the shot on the pads.
Yuvraj made it 3-1 and the Pakistan veteran Waseem cut the scores to 3-2 but Sarvanjit’s conversion past Shah ensured India ran out champions.
Earlier in the match, both India and Pakistan had ample opportunities to finish off the match in regulation time. Pakistan earned seven penalty corners to India’s one but they failed to beat the Indian defence and the goalkeeper Sreejesh.
Asian Games champions Pakistan were initially more attacking pushing the Indian defence back. Shakeel Abassi made some fine runs into the Indian striking circle but V Raghunath stood out with his tackling and clearances.
The Indian forwards had a couple of counter-attacks which the Pakistan defence managed to clear. It was a tense match with a few skirmishes between the players. SV Sunil was the first to be shown the green card for a rough tackle.