The Indian men opened their hockey campaign with a 3-2 win against Malaysia at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium on Tuesday.
Despite displaying average skills in the first half, the hosts pulled themselves together to finish on a high and take full points from the match.
It was Malaysia who began the proceedings with a splendid field goal by the unmarked duo of Muhamad Marhan and Hafifihafiz Hanafi in the 15th minute. An uninterrupted sprint from as far back as the three-quarter line put Marhan in a brilliant position to pass the ball within the circle where a waiting Hanafi stuck his stick out to caress the ball in.
The Indians looked listless from there on. Passes went awry even as the age-old problem of clinging to the ball reared its head. It was only in the 27th minute that the hosts raked in a penalty corner which Dhananjay Mahadik converted to restore parity.
Though Malaysia did go up in the dying minutes of the first half, another penalty corner, converted by specialist Sandeep Singh, got the teams on an equal footing.
The second half began with the hosts looking a side intent on not settling for a draw. The forward-line led by skipper Rajpal Singh made repeated forays into the Malaysian territory though the finishing was shoddy on most occasions.
Malaysian goalkeeper Kumar Subramiam too ensured that the threatening runs did not transform into goals as he thwarted the shots aimed at and around him.
The Malaysian forward-line looked to replicate the Indian forays but was not able to get support from their midfield, which was too busy dealing with the rampaging Indian forwards.
Apart from sporadic runs and some rare shots at goal, the visitors looked content at not conceding another goal rather than scoring.
The defence was crumbling and it finally split wide open in the 66th minute when Bharat Chikara whacked one in to put India ahead.
A penalty corner in the wee seconds, though unsuccessful, ensured the final score remained what the local fans had expected from this classic opening encounter. India next face mighty Australia on Thursday while the Malaysians will hope to make amends in against Pakistan today.
Goals: India: Dhananjay Mahadik (27'); Sandeep Singh (35'+); Bharat Chikara (66') Malaysia: Hafifihafiz Hanafi (15'); Azlan Misron (34')