Chennai: Captain Harmanpreet Singh's brilliant drag-flick helped India overwhelm arch-rival Pakistan in a pulsating match of Asian Champions Trophy here. With the win, India ended at the top spot at the end of the league stage.
Harmanpreet netted a brace while Jugraj Singh and Akashdeep Singh struck one goal each to help India defeat Pakistan 4-0 at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium in Chennai. Team India have already qualified for a place in the semifinals. On the other hand, the big defeat put Pakistan out of the tournament.
The win ensured India finished at the top of the Asian Champions Trophy 2023 points table with 13 points from five matches.
Pakistan, ranked 16th in the world, tried to get off to a good start and nearly did so three minutes in. They needed to avoid a loss by two goals or more to advance to the semifinals. After displaying some deft stickwork on the wings, Aqeel Ahmad fired a beautiful pass to an approaching Abdul Hannan.
Krishan Bahadur Pathak of the Indian hockey team made a spectacular save, but Hannan was able to bundle in the rebound. The visitors' joy was cut short, however, after a review revealed that the ball had come off the Pakistani player's body.
The goal was called off, but Pakistan was granted a penalty corner in its place. Pakistan's hockey team came close to scoring again, but Pathak stopped them.
The Pakistani hockey team entered the second period with intent, and just a few seconds in, Hannan put PR Sreejesh—who had taken Pathak's place—to the test. A few minutes later, Sreejesh was also called into action and had to leave his position in order to prevent Abdul Rehman from scoring.
India made use of their opportunities to attack quickly while Pakistan attempted to press hard, and one such break netted the hosts their second penalty corner. Harmanpreet took the opportunity to score the second goal with a powerful drag flick past Hussain's legs.
When the Indian hockey team had a comfortable two-goal lead, they were able to play more freely and earn back-to-back penalty corners right before the halftime whistle. Harmanpreet was only narrowly able to be kept out by the Pakistani rushers in order to prevent additional harm.
After the restart, Pakistan, the three-time winner of the Asian Champions Trophy, attempted to put on pressure to secure a berth in the semi-finals, but this also left openings for India to take advantage of.
This time, Jugraj Singh converted a penalty corner to score the third goal for the home team, giving him his first goal against Pakistan.
India took advantage of Pakistan's desperate and gung-ho efforts to keep their dreams of making the semifinals alive after falling behind 3-0. India often exploited Pakistan's inexperienced defence on the counter. India attempted multiple circle penetrations, but they were unable to take the lead in the third period.
Akashde Singh finally made the score 4-0 in the fourth quarter after numerous missed opportunities, receiving the tiniest of touches to Mandeep's cross to seal a convincing victory.
Into half-time Men in Blue asserted authority with a 2-0 lead as they lead the game with confidence. In the match, India received many PCs which they converted successfully.