Defending champions India staged a late comeback to edge Iran 27-25 in the men's kabaddi final to retain their gold medal at the 17th Asian Games here Friday.The Iranian team rode on its athleticism, speed and agility to give a scare to the much-vaunted Indian team, who were complacent for the most part of the match at the Songdo Global University Gymnasium. But the Indians utilised their experience and kept calm to give the country its 11th yellow metal in the Incheon Asiad, moving up to sixth place in the standings.Five-time world champions India, with a starting line-up of Rakesh Kumar, Jasvir Singh, Anup Kumar, Manjeet Chhillar, Navneet Gautam, Gurpreet Singh and Ajay Thakur, took things too lightly initially.Iran, the silver medallist in the 2010 Guangzhou Asiad, surged to a 16-7 lead till the 14th minute when Indian skipper Rakesh managed three points to reduce the deficit to six points.
But Iran, who played without fear, got two 'lona' points to open a 21-13 lead at the end of 20 minutes.Indian raiders - Thakur, Jasvir - raided too deep which led to their downfall.Iran ousted 18 Indians in the first half as compared to 11 managed by the Indians. It looked like the western Asian country were on the verge of notching the biggest upset of the Games.But as soon as the second half started, India showed their class and quality to equalise within five minutes. India made some strategic changes and rested veteran defenders Gautam and Gurpreet and all-rounder Manjeet, with youngsters Subramaniam Rajguru, Surjeet Kumar and Nitin Madane brought in, which made the team quick and fresh.
But India suffered a big setback when skipper Rakesh was trapped and thrown on the side lane, which left him injured and also kept him out for the next eight minutes.Iran again found its rhythm and went ahead 24-21. However, India refused to give up and received a major boost when Jasvir collected two points on a raid while the defence came to the fore, bundling out three Iranians at the end.In the second half, India ousted 12 Iranians and seized two 'lona' points while their opponent scored three points by knocking the Indians out and with the help of one more bonus point, they managed just four points in the second half.Earlier in the day, Indian women's kabaddi team won the gold medal for the second consecutive time and with the men's team triumph, India's overall tally in the discipline in the continental Games, swelled to nine.The two gold medals in kabaddi Friday helped India jump two places in the medal standings with 57 medals (11 gold, nine silver, 37 bronze).