The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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My boys did well to withstand pressure: Rajinder

Kuala Lumpur: The pressure of having to make it to the final off his back, India’s chief coach Rajinder Singh said on Friday that his boys would go all out to ensure they win their maiden Asia Cup hockey title on Sunday.

India raised their game by several notches in the dying minutes of their semi-final match against holders South Korea to make it to the final of the sixth edition of the prestigious tournament with a 4-2 win.

“Though we did miss a couple of chances, we made up by scoring late in the second half. It was a good victory for the team,” a much-relieved Rajinder said after the match.

He conceded the Koreans gave India a scare by scoring first after a goalless first half but was pleased that his boys managed to launch a late rally to make it to their fifth Asia Cup final.

“Now we are geared to take on any team in the final. We are confident of even beating Pakistan,” he said.

The coach said the Koreans played a “very fast game” but India did well to avail the chances that they got late in the second half.

“There is pressure on every team to win. My boys did well to withstand the pressure,” he said.

Rajinder was not too worried about India conceding a goal in the last minute saying when the teams are under pressure “such things are common”.

“The Koreans launched an attack but in doing that they also left open spaces and made it easy for our forwards to score,” he said.

The coach defended his decision to take Sandeep Michael out of the attack although his rationale was not too convincing.

“I want Michael to play for another 10 years. I don’t want to put him under too much pressure as he is young. I want him to learn more and more by sitting on the sidelines,” he said.

On defender Dilip Tirkey missing a simple chance off India’s first penalty corner, Rajinder said, “He was not rightly positioned. So he slipped to miss the chance.”

Asked whether it had become a regular habit for Indian players to earn a yellow card in the last few minutes, Rajinder said, “Not much can be done about rough tackles because the pressure is simply too much in the last few minutes. It has become a part of the game in high-pressure matches.”

Michael, who gave India the breakthrough and helped the team equalise 1-1, said he did not go for a direct hit as the Korean goalkeeper had padded away such shots successfully.

“I thought I would deceive him and score and this is what happened.”

Baljit Singh Saini said India will “play their hearts out in the final notwithstanding who our opponent is”.

“The team is really high on spirit now and wants to win the final,” Saini said. (PTI)

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