India reigned supreme in the 8th Men’s Junior Asia Cup following a 6-2 victory over neighbours and arch rivals Pakistan in the final at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium tonight.
Harmanpreet Singh was the main protagonist and scripted Pakistan’s downfall with a burst of four penalty corner goals.
It was India who dictated terms early in the game with a disciplined attacking formation that had the Pakistani defenders led by team captain Ahmad Shakeel Butt back paddling. And it came as no surprise that the blue-shirted Indians took an amazing 2-0 lead.
India made five circle penetrations, earning three penalty corners and Harmanpreet was spot on in the 10th and 15th minutes.
On the opposite end, Pakistan attacking machinery of Muhammad Dilber, Muhammad Rizwan, Bilal Qadir and Shan Irshad threw everything they could and were rewarded with a penalty corner in the 27th minute, their first in the match, and Muhammad Yaqoob pounced on a loose ball.
However, the Indians were far from finished and went 3-1 up as Harmanpreet once again added his name on the score sheet in the 30th minute. Pakistan head coach, Tahir Zaman, introduced reserve goalkeeper Muhammad Talal Khalid for the out-of-form Ali Haider whose confidence took a severe beating three minutes before the interval.
But nothing changed as India did nothing wrong on a cool night with Armaan Qureshi (44th, FG), Manpreet Singh Jr (50t, FG) and Harmanpreet making it 6-1 with his fourth penalty corner goal. Muhammad Dilber returned one for Pakistan (68th, FG) but it was simply too late for the three-time champions to change their fortunes.
“I told the players not to worry so much on the results but play good hockey so that fans here will enjoy the game. Yes, I am proud of my boys as they were in control throughout the final,” said a jubilant Indian team head coach, Harendra Singh.
The magnificent Indian team also bagged three awards. Harmanpreet was the obvious choice for the Tournament’s Top Scorer with 14 goals; team captain Harjeet Singh was Man of the Match and Vikas Dahiya was the Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament.
Two other awards went to Japan and Malaysia. The Japanese received the Fair Play Award and Malaysian striker Shahril Saabah was the Best Player of the Tournament.
Korea defended a 2-1 lead against Japan till the end to clinch the bronze medal. Kim Sung Yeob pounded Japan with a third minute penalty corner goal and Ji Woo Cheon increased the lead to 2-0 (18th) but the Japanese dug deep into their reserves and earned a field goal as the clock ticked away seconds into the interval.
Japan threw everything they could after the breather to take the match into penalty shootout and even had a penalty corner awarded just 42 seconds remaining on the board but Arai Daichi’s powerful drag flick was thwarted by goalkeeper Kim Gil Myung.
As the Japanese sank on their knees in frustration, the Koreans celebrated their third bronze medal in the 27-year history of the Junior Asia Cup.
Malaysia crushed Bangladesh 8-0 to finish fifth and China demolished Oman 7-2 to end their campaign in the 8th Men’s Junior Asia Cup in seventh position. It was China’s second win over Oman in the tournament.