India bow to Pak in final

Awais' first-half strike helps visitors clinch gold

India bow to Pak in final

 Awais ur Rehman scored a first-half winner as Pakistan completed a hat-trick of South Asian Games hockey titles after defeating India 1-0 here on Friday.

Fielding a second string squad with just four players possessing international experience, the vastly inexperienced India had their work cut out against a Pakistani side that had nine players who competed at the London Olympics.

Expectedly Pakistan dominated the proceedings from the word go but without reaping much success though. Playing with five midfielders, they enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, leaving India chasing shadows for the better part of the opening half.

Pakistan could have been 3-0 up midway through the opening half if not for two fine saves from goalkeeper Vikas Dahiya and another goalline clearance from an Indian defender.

The Indians, who needed 20 minutes to make their first foray into the Pakistani defence, relied largely on counter-attacks and had their chances to take surprise lead as well. But, like has been their case right throughout this Games, they floundered with the youngsters making hash of three good chances.

Mohammad Umar failed to trap a good pass from the seasoned Gurbaj Singh and Gagandeep missed twice with the goal at his mercy. Those missed chances with hardly any creative players in their ranks was going to cost them and Pakistan deservedly took the lead on the stroke of halftime when Awais deflected home from point-blank range.

The Indians, who lost to their arch-rivals 2-1 in the group phase, needed to come up with a different game plan upon resumption if they wished to rewrite the script. They showed more courage to pour forward and with Pakistan too giving them space in search of an extra goal, they operated with purpose.

But they found it difficult to make the crucial circle penetrations as Pakistanis cut off all the danger much before the 23-yard line. The Indians, however, never gave up and finally started to make the forays into the Pakistani ‘D’ but their defenders thwarted all of them doggedly.

With time running out, the anxious Indians kept throwing players ahead while Pakistan chose to stay to safeguard their narrow lead. Indians had two superb chances to equalise when they earned two penalty corners, the first with two minutes left and the second on the stroke of the full-time hooter. They missed them both and Pakistan wrapped up a fine hat-trick of golds.

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