India produced an inspiring performance to outplay hosts Malaysia 6-1 in a must-win match and enter their seventh final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament in Ipoh, Malaysia, on Friday.
Needing a victory in their last round-robin league fixture to qualify for Saturday’s title clash, five-time winners India stamped their authority on the hosts to finish ahead of defending champions New Zealand in the standings.
India’s opponents in the final will be reigning world champions Australia, who on Friday prevailed 3-0 over Canada to complete an all-win record in the preliminary league.
Australia finished with the maximum 18 points from six outings, followed by India on 12 points and New Zealand on 11 points.
Australia have won the title a record eight times and were losing finalists to the Black Sticks last year, when India earned a bronze.
SV Sunil (2nd minute), Harjeet Singh (7th), Ramandeep Singh (25th and 39th), Danish Mujtaba (27th) and Talwinder Singh (50th) scored for India, while Shahril Saabah (46th) scored a consolation goal for Malaysia.
India’s last appearance in the final of the Azlan Shah Cup was in 2010, when they shared the title with South Korea after torrential showers flooded the ground.
Watching the India-Malaysia contest from the sidelines were New Zealand, who will now face hosts Malaysia for the bronze medal on Saturday. Malaysia finished fourth after failing to add to their eight points.
Malaysia needed a seven-goal victory to edge ahead of New Zealand in the standings, but they went out seeking to avenge their loss to India in the Hockey World League Semifinals that cost them qualifications for the Olympic Games.
Malaysia’s last victory over India was in last year’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup here, when the home side posted a 3-2 victory in a league match.