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Classy India takes the honours

Karthik Krishnaswamy

Pakistan done in by over-elaborate passing


Neeraj and Shamsher star for India

Uzbekistan finishes third after beating Kazakhstan


— PHOTO: S.S. Kumar

OVERJOYED: The Indian handball team is a happy lot after the triumph.

Chennai: Playing its best handball of the tournament, India clinched the IHF men's Asian Continental Challenge tournament with a 38-31 victory over Pakistan in its final league game here on Monday.

In front of a gallery packed with exuberant schoolkids in uniform, cheering their opponents lustily with showers of confetti torn out of their exercise books, Pakistan's players were visibly nervous at the start. Their uncertain, sometimes over-elaborate passing and the energetic pressing by the Indian defenders led to a number of losses of possession in the first five minutes.

Counterattack

India counterattacked swiftly and ruthlessly, wingers Neeraj Singh and Manpreet Singh racing clear of the disorganised Pakistani retreats and latching on to goalkeeper Amit Kumar's crisp long throws.

In trying to intercept one such throw, Pakistan 'keeper Asif Ali came off his line and missed the ball, which bounced into the net direct.

In possession, India made a concerted effort to pass at a high tempo to further unsettle Pakistan. For a change, India's distribution wasn't unduly focused down the right. Man-marking right-back Shamsher Singh, therefore, proved counter-productive. The first half ended 21-15 in the host's favour.

Shamsher picked up two two-minute suspensions in the first half. To ensure he didn't get sent off for a third such violation, India used its rolling substitutions to take him off whenever India retreated into defence.

In the second half, this, coupled with the setting in of tiredness from all the first-half intensity, contributed to a general slackening at the back. Pakistan right-winger Muhammad Zubair, in particular, benefitted from this.

With far left Manjit Singh drawn too easily to the centre of the court, Zubair constantly went around the outside and scored.

This, however, was only a minor blip in an otherwise blameless performance.

By the time the final whistle sounded, India had extended its lead to seven goals.

Earlier, Uzbekistan ensured a third-place finish, beating Kazakhstan 29-23.

The results:

India 38 (Neeraj Singh 11, Shamsher Singh 7) bt Pakistan 31 (Muhammad Zubair 7, Muhammad Mubeen Ashraf 6); Uzbekistan 29 (Andrey Miroshichenka 11, Aliser Abdualimov 6) bt Kazakhstan 23 (Dilmurad Yuldashev 7, Yevgeniy Russakov 5).

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