India rides on fitness and a dash of magic to claim fourth Asian Champions Trophy title

India defeated Malaysia 4-3 to win its fourth Asian Champions Trophy title at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium on Saturday.

Published : Aug 12, 2023 22:21 IST , Chennai - 3 MINS READ

India defeated Malaysia to win its fourth Asian Champions Trophy title.
India defeated Malaysia to win its fourth Asian Champions Trophy title. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

India defeated Malaysia to win its fourth Asian Champions Trophy title. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In the end, the fitter team won. 

For three quarters the Indians chased the ball, the game and the Malaysians, desperately seeking the elusive moment of inspired magic that would help them put ahead. It came in the 45th minute, twice over, and it turned the game on its head as India came back from a two-goal deficit to win 4-3 and clinch an unprecedented 4th title at the Asian Champions Trophy here on Saturday.

The crowd may have been lukewarm to begin at the beginning of the tournament but turned up in style for the final, treated to a thriller that appeared on course for an anti-climax before Gurjant Singh struck the spark that lit the fire. It happened in the 45th minute, striking home from a goalmouth melee, and followed a penalty stroke seconds earlier as India, trailing 1-3 till then, levelled scores to make it even going into the final stretch. 

FOLLOW | India vs Malaysia Live Score

And then, it came down to the fitness, with India suddenly accelerating at will, running past the tired and cramping Malaysians with ease, taking control of the ball and the game and almost camping in the opposition half. It still took all the experience and a big slice of luck for Akashdeep Singh to beat Hafizuddin Othman, brilliant throughout, in the 56th minute for get the winner. 

Till then, though, Malaysia had been the one in control, dictating the pace of the game. India was edgy and disjointed, uncertain of itself, despite getting the opener in the 9th minute through Jugraj Singh’s PC. While form and history was on India’s side, the Malaysians weren’t bothered by either, pushing high and playing aggressive. They also used the flanks well to stretch the Indian players and long passes to bypass the Indian midfield.

The last time the teams met in the league stage, India’s control and discipline and its constantly switching midfield had stifled the opposition. In the final, Malaysians found a way around the latter and rattled the Indians enough to disrupt the former. It paid off as the Malaysians constantly entered the Indian circle, threatening to score every time they did. Errors did not help India’s cause – Amit Rohidas’ lapse led to the 2nd and 3rd PCs that resulted in the 2nd goal and Jugraj’s unnecessary push led to the 3rd goal. 

The Indians, on the other hand, appeared in too much hurry to score and ended up conceding turnovers instead and the forwards were often off position for the final touch, Othman doing his bit to fend them away. The Indian structure appeared shaky against the Malaysian challenge. And then, the stopwatch stuck the 45th minute.

Earlier, reigning Asian Games champion Japan continued its impressive performance and overwhelmed defending champion Korea 5-3 to clinch bronze in a repeat of the 2021 final.

Bronze medal playoff: Japan 5 (Ryoma Ooka 3, Ryosei Kato 9, Mentaro Fukuda 28, Shota Yamada 53, Ken Nagayoshi 56) bt Korea 3 (Jonghyun Jang 15, 33, Cheoleon Park 26); Final: India 4 (Jugraj Singh 9, Harmanpreet Singh 45, Gurjant Singh 45, Akashdeep Singh 56) bt Malaysia 3 (Abu Kamal Azrai 14, Razie Rahim 18, Mohd. Aminudin 28).
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