Goals from Rupinder Pal Singh (18th minute), Yousuf Affan (23rd) and Nikkin Thimmaiah (51st) helped India surmount the challenge from Pakistan, who rallied from two goals behind through strikes by Muhammad Aleem Bilal (26th) and Ali Shaan (38th) in the title clash of the fourth edition of tournament.
This was the first time the teams were meeting in the final of a continental tournament since India dethroned Pakistan as the Asian Games champions in Incheon, South Korea in 2014.
India went into the title contest at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium without ace custodian PR Sreejesh, who was rested due to pulled hamstring and Akash Chikte took the position under the bar.
India increased the lead in the 23rd minute as Ramandeep’s cross was deflected in by Yousuf Affan.
Under pressure, Pakistan responded by forcing their first penalty corner, which was converted by Muhammad Aleem Bilal in the 26th minute.
Pakistan defence had no trouble in warding away India’s attempts to send long diagonal balls into the circle and capitalised on a lapse by the Indian defence to draw 2-2 parity in the 38th minute. Ali Shan wasted no time in slapping the ball that had got deflected to him inside the scoring zone.
India had a goal disallowed on review in the 40th minute when the video umpire ruled that Kothajit Singh’s shot from outside the circle went into the goal without a touch.
India wrested the lead back in the 51st minute when Sardar Singh found Thimmaiah, who beat Pakistan custodian Fareed Ahmed with a diagonal flick.
In the final two minutes of play, all Indian players fell back into their territory to keep the last-gasp Pakistan attacks at bay.
Source by deccanchronicle…