x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Pakistan strike gold in Asian Games hockey

Fired-up Pakistan wins the Asian Games men's hockey gold for the first time in 20 years with 2-0 victory over Malaysia in the final.

GUANGZHOU, CHINA // Fired-up Pakistan wins the Asian Games men's hockey gold for the first time in 20 years with 2-0 victory over Malaysia in the final today.

Veteran Sohail Abbas put Pakistan ahead with his team's first penalty corner in the 26th minute, before the striker Rehan Butt increased the margin three minutes after half-time.

It was Pakistan's eighth asiad hockey gold, ending a drought that stretched back to Beijing in 1990, and handed them their first major title since winning the World Cup in Sydney in 1994.

Pakistan ended the year on a high after a disappointing eight-month period in which they finished a humiliating last at the World Cup in March and took sixth place at the Commonwealth Games in October.

The Pakistanis kneeled in prayer after the final whistle, before lifting their Dutch coach Michel van den Heuvel over their shoulders to loud applause from the stands.

Pakistan captain Zeeshan =Ashraf said he was at a loss for words to describe his feelings at winning a long-awaited title which gave his team a direct entry to the 2012 London Olympics

"It's our turn to celebrate," said Ashraf. "Taking the gold after 20 years was important, but i am happier that we have also booked a place in the Olympics.

"What can i say about my team? They were just brilliant. We came here to win and achieved our target. Hopefully the past will be forgotten.

"Our country is facing so many problems that it needs moments like this to celebrate. I am sure our win would have brought smiles on the faces of all Pakistanis."

Malaysia, often dubbed the sport's perennial under-achievers, had to settle for silver in their maiden appearance in the title clash after winning the bronze medal six times.

Amin Rahim, whose two late goals sank India, faltered in all three penalty corners his team earned in the second-half.

Malaysia had gone into the final as the only unbeaten team in the competition with four wins and a draw.

"It is disappointing to lose," said striker Faisal Saari. "But look at it this way — we won six bronze medals earlier, now we have taken the silver.

"I am sure we can only get better after this."

Meanwhile, India returned to the asiad podium after missing out in Doha four years ago when they defeated favourites South Korea 1-0 in the bronze medal play-off.

Tushar Khandekar netted the winner four minutes into the second session as India dominated the lacklustre Koreans through the 70-minute encounter.

India had not won an asiad hockey medal for the first time in Doha and paid the price when they failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics two years ago.