Jakarta: Iran scripted history in the annals of world kabaddi by stunning India 27-18 in the semi-finals of the 18th Asian Games here on Thursday.
This is the first time since the traditional rural sport was included in the Asian Games in 1990 that the Indian men's team will not take home the gold.
Apart from ending India's 28-year run as defending champions at the Asiad, Thursday's defeat was also India's first at any major tournament. Along with the Asian Games, India have won every World Cup, Asia Cup and South Asian Games till now.
This is also Iran's first victory over India in the knock-out stages of any tournament. For the Iranians, this is also revenge of sorts for their defeats to India in the finals of the last two Asian Games.
In a match which saw a thrilling battle between Indian raiders and Iran's defence, Iran proved superior. Iran struggled initially, but used their expertise in the super tackle to script an amazing comeback.
Right from the start, Indian raiders struggled to get points while Iran, on the other hand, maintained their dominance throughout the match thanks to their defence. Iran took most of their points through super-tackles which helped them overpower overwhelming favourites India.
The match was off to a somewhat tentative start before exploding with power-packed action in the second half. Both teams displayed a strong, physical style and sometimes overt aggression which kept the packed stadium at the edge of their seats.
Rishank Devadiga drew first blood for India through a brilliant raid followed by three more consecutive points, thanks to defender Girish Ernak.
When the scoreboard was reading 4-0, Iran defender Nabibaksh grabbed Rishank to open his team's account.
Experienced raider Pardeep Narwal also joined the party and stole few points to make score read 6-1. But after that Abolfazl Maghsoudlou got the big fish as he touched defender Girish to send him out.
When the score was 6-4 in favour of India, the series of super-tackles started for Iran which blew away India's attack.
India started giving away easy points and both teams went to the half time break locked at 9-9.
The second half saw Iran dominating Indian raiders. The late substitution of star player Rahul Chaudhary also allowed Iran to put pressure on India.
Rahul came on the mat with less than 10 minutes remaining and straightaway took three points but lack of support from defence and other raiders put Rahul on back-foot.
Monu Goyat, Pardeep, Rishank also looked hapless in front of the Iran defence and went off the mat one by one.
Iran Nabibaksh then touched Mohit and Girish towards the end to inflict an all out on their opponents and dash Indian hopes. At the end, Abozar Mighani and Fazel Athrachali made it a formality and comfortably marched into the final.
(Photo Source: The Indian Express)