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India ends long wait for win versus Pakistan

October 2, 2014

INCHEON, South Korea (AP) — After 32 years, India finally got them back.

The country’s field hockey team beat Pakistan 4-2 in a shootout after a 1-1 draw Thursday in the men’s final at the Asian Games, a result that avenged Pakistan’s 7-1 rout of India in the 1982 final in New Delhi.

With the win, India also qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

India and Pakistan had not played in the final at the Asian Games since that match in 1982, and the only previous time India defeated Pakistan for gold was in Bangkok in 1966.

Although India has won eight Olympic gold medals, it was only its third Asian Games title.

“I think India should not carry the baggage of having been a top team because that does not matter now,” said India coach Terry Walsh, who is Australian. “These boys don’t carry the baggage of either being a top team nor that of losing time and again against Pakistan, that’s why they could win here. The mentality is changing.”

The Indian players took a victory lap with the national flag after beating Pakistan, and goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh distributed a bagful of T-shirts to supporters.

India captain Sardar Singh credited Walsh for helping the team handle the pressure of playing a final.

“Most of our players do not have the experience of playing in big matches,” Sardar said. “That is where Walsh and the team staff came in. It was their experience of handling such pressure situations that helped us.”

Pakistan took an early lead when an unmarked Muhammad Rizwan scored in the third minute but Kothahit Singh converted a cross from Gurbaj Singh on the right in the 27th.

India then dominated but it still went to a shootout. Akashdeep Singh, Rupinderpal Singh, Dharamveer Singh and Birender Lakra converted for India while Manpreet Singh missed. Muhammad Waqas and Shafqat Rasool found the mark for Pakistan but Sreejesh’s superb tackles of the advancing players from the 25-yard line saw him fist off attempts from Muhammad Umar and Abdul Haseem.

“I thought not much separated the two teams,” Pakistan coach Shahnaz Sheikh said. “Both teams had their chances but I think they were better prepared for the shootouts and were playing for it toward the end.”

Pakistan failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup in the Netherlands, and did not field a team at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow due to a split in its national Olympic association. It also failed to send its team abroad for other tournaments and matches because of financial problems.

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