India rode on goals from Akashdeep Singh and Harmanpreet Singh to beat Pakistan 2-1 and win bronze in the men's hockey competition of the Asian Games in Jakarta on Saturday. This is India's third bronze in Asian Games history, after 1986 and 2010, while Pakistan have finished outside the podium for just the second time in men's hockey, apart from 2002.
India started aggressively, and were rewarded in the third minute when SV Sunil was able to steal the ball and make his way into the Pakistan circle. He slipped it through to Lalit Upadhyay, who worked his way towards the baseline, before cutting the ball back in for Akashdeep, who unleashed a hard hit across the face of Imran Butt's goal.
Pakistan almost pulled a goal back two minutes later, as forward Muhammad Atiq's reverse-hit beat goalkeeper PR Sreejesh but stayed out after hitting his far post. That was the only substantive attack from Pakistan in the first quarter though, as India's forwards showed imagination in pushing the ball wide and keeping Pakistan pinned in their own half. Pakistan defended with up to six players inside their circle to deny India, who had two circle penetrations in the last minute of the first quarter but failed to get a shot on target.
Pakistan started the second quarter more positively, and got two back-to-back penalty corners (PCs) in the 22nd minute. Abu Bakar's first attempt hit Varun Kumar's foot on the way out of touch. The second attempt was blocked by Harmanpreet, who had a much-improved game in the Indian defence, though India lost their referral in the process of protesting the second PC. India were forced to start employing long balls, and one such ball fell to Sunil in the 28th minute, but his snapshot was saved by Imran, who then swatted away a follow-up attempt from Akashdeep from the long corner that India won seconds later.
India regained some attacking momentum early in the third quarter, and Lalit was denied a deflected goal in the 33rd minute when Rashid Mehmood made a crucial interception on a crash ball played towards the Indian forward from the left. A minute later, Akashdeep's reverse-hit pass found an onrushing Sunil, but the latter failed to keep his shot on target. Pakistan would regain control of the quarter, especially with Manpreet Singh conceding a green card in the 39th minute. Ali Shan won Pakistan their third PC as the game restarted, and Muhammad Irfan tried to work a variation with his drag-flick, but it was well read by the Indian defence.
India won their first PC of the match in the 50th minute -- Mandeep Singh blocked by Shakeel Butt inside the Pakistan circle -- and Harmanpreet drilled the ball low past Imran to double India's advantage. Two minutes later, India were caught off-guard from a Pakistan counter, and Abu Bakar played the ball into the path of an unmarked Atiq to pull one back for his team. Pakistan tried to push for the equaliser, including taking their goalkeeper off with three minutes to go, but India held firm and registered their sixth win in seven matches in Indonesia.
The only match they failed to win, however, costs them a chance to qualify directly for the 2020 Olympic Games.