The Indian hockey team continued its unbeaten run, fighting back from a goal down to hold Malaysia 2-2 in the Asian Champions Trophy on Wednesday, but it is still not assured of a place in the final until it takes on archrivals Pakistan on Friday.
The goal-scorers for India were Ravi Pal (9th min) and Danish Mujtaba (52nd), while Tajuddin Jalil and Mohd Amin Rahim struck for Malaysia in the 24th and 32nd minute respectively.
A win against Malaysia would have given India 10 points and a berth in the final, but they will now have to wait till Friday when they clash with Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Asian Games champions Pakistan pipped South Korea 3-2 and are now on top of the table with nine points, followed by India on eight. Japan are third with seven points and Korea are fourth with six points in the kitty. That puts four teams with a possibility of entering the final.India’s match with Pakistan becomes a virtual semifinal, as Michael Nobbs' men need to beat them in order to enter the final.
India can afford a draw provided Malaysia beat Japan. India could then sneak into the final on better goal average, that too if Korea beat China, the lowest ranked team in the tournament. Goal averages would also count for Pakistan and Korea if India beat Pakistan. The safest bet for India, however, would be to beat Pakistan.
India were in attack mode right from the start as Gurwinder Singh Chandi made his customary runs into the Malaysian circle, but the first few appeals for penalty-corners were disallowed.
The first goal came in the ninth minute when SV Sunil's shot was padded away by goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin to Ravi Pal, who picked up the high rebound to push home.
Malaysia reacted fiercely and got the equaliser from their third penalty-corner when Jalil deflected the flick past India goalkeeper Sreejesh in the 24th minute.
They broke into the lead eight minutes later when Sreejesh kicked the ball into an Indian defender's leg, thus conceding a penalty-corner, which was converted by Amin.
India went hunting for their second goal but the Malaysian defenders stood firm. India eventually equalised in the 52nd minute when midfielder Gurbaj Singh essayed a brilliant central cross from the right to a diving Danish Mujtaba who made no mistake.
A few more sharp chances came India's way but the Malaysian defence did well to thwart them. Tensions mounted as India launched their last attack with 15 seconds to go, but Gurbaz and Sunil failed to finish off the move.
Pak overhaul Korea
Pakistan took the lead in the seventh minute when Muhammad Waqas struck from the right.
The lead became 2-0 in the 13th minute when Muhammad Irfan powered in a penalty-corner. Korea fought back after the break and reduced the margin in the 43rd minute when Sun Hoon Cho shot in from close.
Korea then equalised in the 52nd minute through Hyun Woo Nam, but Pakistan's Shafqat Rasool scored the match-winner in the 57th minute.
In another match, Japan beat China 3-2. China took the lead in the 27th minute when Song Yi converted a field attempt. Japan fought back with an equaliser on the break when Kazuyuki Ozawa scored from the top of the circle.