Double-defending champions India came up with a spirited display to outclass hosts Malaysia 5-2 and returned back in medal contention in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament in Ipoh on Monday. With this win, India have also avenged their shock Asian Games semifinal loss to Malaysia. Despite starting their campaign with a 2-3 loss to South Korea, India are back in the medal hunt with their second victory from four matches beside the draw against World champions Australia.
Britain surged to the top of the round-robin league standings with a 3-1 win over New Zealand, which took their tally to nine points from four outings.
Oz thrash Pak
Australia, meanwhile, hammered Pakistan 5-1 to take their points tally to seven from three matches and have a slightly better goal-difference compared to India, who are in third position.
India will play Pakistan in their next round-robin league match on Wednesday.
Against Malaysia, Mandeep Antil scored two goals (18th and 69th min), while Roshan Minz (8th), Rupinder Pal Singh (22nd) and SV Sunil (35th) found the net once each for India. Malaysia’s goals came through Azammi Adabi (34th) and Nabil Abdullah (43rd).
India are seeking to complete a hat-trick after winning the Cup in the past two editions.
India took an early lead as Minz capitalised on a pass from captain Arjun Halappa, who moved in from the left to send a defence-splitting ball that found Minz in the goalmouth.
Antil made it 2-0 in the 18th minute by picking up a diagonal cross from Ravipal Singh and shot in from hand-shaking distance. Rupinder continued his brilliant goal-scoring spree by converting the first penalty corner India got in the 22nd minute, sending the ball into the cage with a powerful drag-flick to register his fifth goal of the tournament.Malaysia pierced the Indian defence for their first goal through Adabi in the 34th minute. The move was initiated by a through pass from Firhan Asharri that got defelected by Izwan Firdaus towards Adabi, who flicked the ball past a diving Indian goalkeeper Bharat Chhetri.
On a rampage
Within a minute, India scored again through Sunil, who capitalised on Shivendra Singh’s square-pass to place the ball in the goal and give India a 4-1 lead at half-time. After the change of ends, Malaysia produced a more determined effort, spurred by Nabil Abdullah who snatched the ball from an Indian defender and shot home from top of the box past a crowded scoring zone in the 43rd minute.
Lifted by the second goal, Malaysia’s strikers gave Indian defence a torrid time for the next 10 minutes. India survived two close shaves and on both the occasion Chhetri stepped in to ward off the danger.Chhetri saved two penalty-corner shots in the last seven minutes to deny Malaysia before Antil got a touch to a firm goal-bound drive from Gurwinder Singh Chandi in the dying stages of the match. Fifteen members of this Malaysian team are from the silver-medal winning Asian Games squad of 18 that upset India.