| Prabhjot Singh celebrates after scoring India’s fourth goal against Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday. (AFP)
Kuala Lumpur: The pain of losing to Pakistan when it matters most is history. India clinched their first Asia Cup beating the arch-rivals 4-2 in the final, Ignace Tirkey and Prabhjot Singh scoring the last two in the dying moments of the game. Kanwalpreet Singh and Gagan Ajit Singh had earlier scored for the Indians as they went into half-time locked 2-2. Veteran penalty corner specialist Sohail Abbas sounded the board twice for Pakistan.
The victory ensured an automatic berth for India in the 2006 Berlin World Cup.
It was a disciplined performance by India as they outplayed Pakistan in all departments of the game, thus breaking the jinx of losing in four Asia Cup finals.
The win was also a sweet revenge for the defeats against Pakistan in the third-place play-off in last month’s Champions Trophy and the league match here on Wednesday.
The match saw fluctuating fortunes with India surging ahead in the sixth minute before Pakistan put two in.
India levelled the score 2-2 and the game reached great heights with both teams trying to take control. The second half, however, got off to a dull start as both the teams adopted the safety first approach.
India started lifting the tempo in a bid to take the crucial lead but were thwarted in their attempts by an alert Pakistan defence, which offered little space to the forwards.
Pakistan also came up with some good moves but failed to take advantage due to some poor finishing. The Pakistan forwards hardly tested Indian goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan as most of their moves fizzled out on reaching the Indian circle.
The defining moment came in the 69th minute when Ignace, playing with three stitches on his forehead, latched on to a pass from deep and struck home from the top of the circle.
Pakistan were stung by the reverse and tried hard to take the match to extra time. But their hopes were dashed when Prabhjot tapped in a Baljit Singh Dhillon cross from the right with seconds to go for the hooter.
The match finally saw India acquiring a good success rate in penalty corner conversion in the absence of Jugraj Singh. They converted two of the four, Kanwalpreet being the surprise package. His superb drag flick beat the rival ’keeper as India surged ahead in the sixth minute.
But their happiness was shortlived as Pakistan forced a short corner from a counter attack and Abbas was prompt to convert it.
India had more of the ball possession but Pakistan made full use of the limited opportunities they got in the first session.
Pakistan played a clever game as their forwards, once inside the Indian 25-yard, were looking for penalty corners, fully confident of Abbas’ prowess.
Rehan Butt helped his side earn two back-to-back penalty corners against the run of play and Pakistan went 2-1 ahead, courtesy, the Abbas magic.
India created a couple of openings but forwards Deepak Thakur and Gagan Ajit missed the chances.
Thakur’s reverse flick from just inside the circle lacked the power to beat an alert Ahmed Alam, who had a good outing.
Thakur again failed to take advantage of a goalmouth melee as Alam once again came to his side’s rescue. Finally India managed to level the score when Gagan Ajit, waiting near the post, slided to push the ball in after Tirkey came up with a weak shot off India’s third short corner.
Korea finish third
Lee Jung Seon scored a hattrick as Asian Games gold medallists and defending champions South Korea outplayed Japan 4-2 to finish third.
Japan, who finished fifth in the previous edition in 1999, did not go down without a fight and were trifle unlucky when Ryuji Furusato’s brave attempt following a superb solo run missed the goal by a whisker. (PTI)