The Indian men's junior hockey team maintained its continental supremacy as it beat Pakistan 2-1 to win the Asia Cup for the fourth time on Thursday evening.
Angad Bir Singh (13th minute) and Araijeet Singh Hundal (20th) scored for India while Pakistan pulled one back through Abdul Basharat (37th). This was India's fourth title, having earlier won the tournament in 2004, 2008 and 2015. Pakistan have won the tournament in 1987, 1992 and 1996.
India remained unbeaten throughout the tournament and in the process also qualified for the FIH Men's Junior World Cup, to be held in Malaysia in December this year. Lauding the team's performance, Hockey India's Executive Board announced a cash award of Rs 2 lakh for each player and Rs 1 lakh each for the support staff.
India went on the offensive from the first minute as they earned a penalty corner off their first move. Sudeep Chirmako entered from the left wing and found the feet of an opponent defender, but the subsequent chance went wasn't converted.
India missed another chance to convert a penalty corner in the sixth minute when Sunit Lakra's drag-flick was saved by Pakistan's goalkeeper. However, India took the lead in the 12th minute when Angad tapped one home from close range after Araijeet's shot was deflected. Araijeet, one of India's brightest upcoming talents, doubled the lead seven minutes later. He received a delivery at the centre of the striking circle and controlled the pass before taking a turn and smashing the ball into the back of the net.
India found plenty of space in Pakistan's defensive third but failed to finish their chances and held on to a 2-0 lead at halftime. Pakistan upped the ante after the breather and Abdul halved the deficit in the 37th minute when Abdul Shahid set him up with a perfect assist.
The final quarter saw Pakistan make a flurry of attacks and they got at least three penalty corners in quick succession. In the 50th minute, Indian custodian Mohith Shashikumar made a diving save when Arbaz Ayaz tried to deflect a penalty corner from the left side of the Indian goal. They got another penalty corner but Nadeem Khan's attempt was off-target. The Indians managed to hold fort and see out a memorable win.
Sweet Victory ✌️
India win a well fought encounter against arch nemesis Pakistan in the finals of Men's Junior Asia Cup 2023.#HockeyIndia #IndiaKaGame #AsiaCup2023 #GoldToIndianColts#GloryToIndianColts pic.twitter.com/LYcGHypdcW
- Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) June 1, 2023
Speaking about the tense final, India team captain Uttam Singh, who was adjudged the Player of the Match, said, "After the 1-1 draw in the round-robin stage, we were very aware of the areas we had to do well to beat Pakistan. It was quite a nervous final. The team had never played in front of such a big crowd but I think creating early goals helped us stay in control of the game."
India coach CR Kumar said the win was a good team effort: "It came down to executing our opportunities. Though I feel we could have scored a few more goals, when you are playing a big opponent like Pakistan there is a lot of pressure. But I am very happy with the way the players controlled their emotions and played to their potential."