| Sandeep Singh, the highest scorer in the meet, is tossed in the air in Karachi on Thursday. (AFP)
Karachi: Left-winger Tushar Khandekar scored a hattrick as India outplayed arch-rivals Pakistan 5-2 in the final to clinch their maiden junior Asia Cup hockey title on Thursday.
Khandekar, who has shown a good deal of promise in the tournament, and Sandeep Singh, who scored two goals, helped India win the first match between the two sides on Pakistani soil in five years.
Pakistan, who were trailing 0-4 at one stage, made a spirited effort to take the fight to the Indian camp but were undone by some poor finishing and failure to convert a number of penalty corners.
India were tight in their defence and purposeful in attack which in the end reaped rich dividends for the winners.
Khandekar’s strikes — all field goals — came in the 22nd, 38th, 44th minutes while Sandeep, the highest scorer in the tournament with 16 goals, scored in the 31st and 61st minute. Pakistan pulled back two goals through Tariq Aziz (45th) and penalty corner expert Imran Warsi (47th) in the second half.
Earlier, defending champions South Korea beat Malaysia 2-1 in a hard fought match to finish third and gained the last berth for the World Cup. The first half of the final saw play mostly confined to the midfield although both sides made some forays periodically.
India worked hard to break the Pakistan backline on a few occasions and whenever they got some space inside the circle, they fully utilised the opportunity to test the rival goalkeeper.
A glaring error on the part of a Pakistani defender, who failed to clear a Vivek Gupta shot from outside the D, helped India take the lead as Khandekar tapped the ball to the left of the hapless goalkeeper.
The goal came just a minute after Virendra Lakra’s shot to an open post was stopped on the line by the custodian.
Pakistan also made some attempts on the Indian goal but were denied by an alert defence and goalkeeper Adrian D’Souza. The hosts also frittered away two chances from penalty corners with Warsi failing to sound the board.
India, on the other hand, capitalised from the lone penalty corner they received in the first half, with Sandeep beating the Pakistani goalie comprehensively with his drag flick.
India, who went to the half-time with a 2-0 lead, soon made it 3-0 with Khandekar’s goal.
In the 38th minute, the winger converted a V.S. Vinay’s brilliant pass into the goal while Sandeep’s rasping drive was deflected inside the cage by a defender in the 44th minute. Pakistan hit back with two quick goals in a great style and came close to restore parity. Aziz scored from the right in the 45th minute and then two minutes later Warsi made it 2-4 with a carpet drive.
Deflections from captain Shakil Abbasi and Aziz went over the post and winger Akhtar Ali also missed an easy chance to add to home team’s woes. India, who won the junior World Cup in Hobart in 2001, sealed the fate of the match with Sandeep’s second goal.