A spirited Indian men’s hockey team defeated arch-rivals and defending champions Pakistan 4-2 in a nerve-wracking shoot-out to end its 16-year gold medal draught in the Asian Games and earn a direct berth to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
It turned out to be a humdinger of a contest between the two sub-continental foes as both India and Pakistan refused to give an inch to each other in the entire 60 minutes of a keenly contested tussle.
It took a shoot-out to determine the winner as both the teanm were locked 1-1 in the regulation time of the summit clash at the Seonhak Hockey Stadium.
Pakistan started brightly and broke the deadlock as early as the third minute of the match through Muhammad Rizwan Sr before Kothajit Singh (27th) equalised for India in the second quarter.
The two teams continued their battle after change of ends but failed to breach the rival citadels inspite of creating
numerous scoring chances, forcing the match into the shoot-off.
In the one-on-one shoot-off situation, Akashdeep Singh, Rupinderpal Singh, Birendra Lakra and Dhramvir Singh scored for India, while Manpreet Singh turned out to be the fall guy.
But all credit to Indian custodian and vice-captain P R Sreejesh, who produced breathtaking saves in the shoot-off to deny Pakistan’s Abdul Haseem Khan and Muhammad Umar Butta. Muhammad Waqas and Shafqat Rasool scored the goals for Pakistan.
By virtue of the coveted gold medal here, India have earned a direct qualification to Rio Olympics, while Pakistan will have to go through the qualifiers. The last time India won the gold medal was in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok.