Chennai: Having struggled to make a mark in the event so far, seasoned forward Akashdeep Singh scored when it mattered to cap India’s sensational fightback from a two-goal deficit to beat Malaysia 4-3 in the final to bag the Asian Champions Trophy title for a record-breaking fourth time here on Saturday.
This is India’s fourth title in the event as they broke the record of three titles (two outright and one shared) with archrivals Pakistan. India won the title in the inaugural year in 2011 and then in 2016. In 2018, they had shared the title with Pakistan in Muscat, Oman as the match was rained off.
However, on Saturday, the hosts looked in trouble for some time before they fought back to seal a memorable victory, which is a big boost to the team’s morale ahead of the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
India, who took the lead in the ninth minute through a penalty corner, committed a few defensive errors as Malaysia scored through Abu Kamal Azrai (14th), Razie Rahim (18th) and Aminuddin Muhamad (28th) to take a 3-1 lead at half-time at the Mayor Radhakrishna Stadium here.
But just when Malaysia were looking forward to claiming their maiden Asian Champions Trophy title, India came roaring back to score twice within a few seconds to level the scores.
India made it 2-3 off a superb field goal when Sukhjeet Singh, who was set up by Nilkanta Singh after a quick exchange of passes to break the defence, was brought down inside the circle just when he was about to take a shot at the goal, earning India a penalty stroke. Skipper Harmanpreet Singh, the top scorer of the tournament with eight goals, stepped up and flicked a high shot into the net to bring India back into the game.
The comeback was complete within a few seconds when Gurjant levelled scores capitalising on a mistake by a rattled Malaysian defence, scored a field goal to make it 3-3.
Akashdeep scored the winner five minutes from the end of the match in a pulsating fourth quarter to seal a memorable victory for India.