Indian hockey has suffered time and again in recent years with late goals and defensive lapses. That situation almost came to the fore in the final of the Asia Cup on Sunday when India played Malaysia. India led Malaysia 2-0 going into the final quarter and had let go of numerous chances to consolidate that lead. However, India conceded one late on to invite undue pressure. In the end, though, India held on and newly-appointed coach Sjoerd Marijne applauded the team’s effort in improvised defensive tactics.
“I was a bit worried when the score was 2-1 and strange goals can happen in last four or five minutes. I am really happy how they (the India players) played, they changed the way we defend in the end and that helped us clinch the final,” Marijne said after guiding the team to title triumph in his maiden assignment.
The 2-1 win ensured India’s third Asia Cup title and first in a decade with last coming in 2007. On winning the title, skipper Manpreet Singh said, “It is a great honour to captain this team. Hockey is a team game and we are a family and this victory was possible because of the team work we put in. We are enjoying this victory.”
Despite the defeat, Malaysia will take heart from the effort considering it was their first foray into an Asia Cup final. “India are tough opponents and ranked much higher than us,” said Malaysia head coach Stephen van Huizen. “This was our first ever Asia Cup final and I am really happy with the way the boys performed. It was a close contest and I am happy how they played.”