Last Sunday proved to be a great day for Indian hockey as India won the Under-18 Boy’s Asia Cup at Dhaka. In a game that saw nine goals being scored, India defeated hosts Bangladesh 5-4 and lifted the champions’ trophy. The U-18 hockey event has a funny history, which dates back to 2001 with Malaysia hosting the inaugural tournament in 2001. That tournament at Ipoh was won by India. The second edition of U-18 Boys Asia Cup took eight years, when Myanmar played hosts at Yangon in 2009 and Pakistan emerged as the winners. Two years later in 2011, the U-18 Asia Cup was played in Singapore and Korea took the honors of finishing at the top. The Bangladesh tournament thus was the fourth edition. With Korea and Malaysia skipping the 7-nation event, India and Pakistan were the strongest teams and everyone expected the two teams to reach the final. That didn’t happen because the two hockey powerhouses met in the semifinal and India ran away with a 3-1 victory. Host nation Bangladesh were the first-time entrants but they managed to reach the final since the field was weak except India and Pakistan. Moreover, Bangladesh produced a fine performance and also beat India in the league phase. In the final too, the hosts matched the strong Indian team stick for stick and almost pushed the match to the penalty shoot-out. But Abhishek Yadav came up with the deciding goal moments before the hooter and India won the event for the second time.
India and Bangladesh entered the final after beating their opponents in the semifinals on Thursday September 27. In the first semifinal, India played far better than Pakistan and took the lead early. At the start of the second half, India doubled the lead and could have made it 3-0, when they were awarded a penalty stroke. However, India did make it 3-0 in 46th minute. Though Pakistan pulled one back in closing stages but the 3-1 result took India for the summit clash with Bangladesh. On their part, Bangladesh played brilliantly in the other semifinal against Taiwan and earned a deserved 6-1 victory.
The final was a thrilling affair and spectators enjoyed a goal-fest. Though India dominated the ball possession as the match began but failed to convert a penalty in the 6th minute. However, it was Bangladesh, who took the lead by converting a penalty corner. But India soon leveled the score 1-1 just before halftime. The pace of the match became frenetic in the second half. India shot through the goal twice and took a 3-1 lead. However, the hosts refused to be left behind and a spirited play saw them level the score at 3-3. The thrill continued unabated as India mounted to another lead but the hosts kept their hopes alive by leveling the scores yet again. At 4-4, Bangladesh began to wrest the initiative from India with the entire stadium rooting for their heroes. As minutes ticked away, it looked as if the final would be decided on shoot-out but Abhishek Yadav produced a brilliant last-minute goal that took India 5-4 ahead. Soon the hooter went off and India emerged as the second-time champion of the U-18 Boys Asia Cup at Dhaka.
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