Ipoh [Malaysia]: Indian men’s hockey team came up with a determined performance to beat Malaysia 4-2 in an exciting encounter at the 28th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2019 on Tuesday.
This was India’s second win after defeating Japan 2-0 in the first match, while they drew the second match against Korea 1-1. India will next take on Canada on March 27.
The two teams began the first quarter with powerful counterattacks that kept the spectators on the edge of their seats. First, it was India to foray into the striking circle with some skilful tackle by forward Simranjeet Singh but the hosts were alert to ward off initial danger.
Five minutes into the game, Malaysia won their first penalty corner but Krishan B Pathak guarding India’s post did brilliantly to save. The following minutes saw accelerating play by both teams, playing on-par with each other and ended the quarter in a stalemate.
India adapted to full-press, putting their best defence on display. Vice-captain Surender Kumar continued to remain the main-man for India in the backline thoroughly supported by the experienced Birendra Lakra, making important connections that helped the forward-line surge into the striking circle.
Varun Kumar’s pass into the top of the circle saw Hardik Singh work in tandem with Mandeep Singh to set up a shot on goal. It was eventually Sumit who got the right deflection helping India take an important 1-0 lead in the 17th minute. Later, Mandeep helped India win their first penalty corner but after several re-takes, India could not extend their lead.
Soon after, Malaysia rallying on a good counter attack won their second penalty corner of the match. Though their first attempt was well-saved by PR Sreejesh, who replaced Krishan after the first quarter, Razie Rahim did not disappoint his home crowd as he struck low to give Malaysia an equaliser in the 21st minute.
The match remained tensed, truly living up to its billing of being the most-awaited match, India continued to use full-press as they looked for a potential counter-attack. A good tackle by Sumit to dispossess Malaysia’s Faizal Saari set-up India’s second goal. This time it was Sumit Kumar Jr who put the ball past Malaysia goalkeeper Hairi Rahman in the 27th minute.
The third quarter was intense with both teams rallying on counter attacks but India remained determined. They challenged the Malaysian defence with solid circle entries; Mandeep Singh worked his magic yet again winning India another important penalty corner. Taken by drag-flicker Varun Kumar, he scored on a re-take with a powerful flick, keeping the ball low to the left.
The 3-1 lead put pressure on the hosts. Though Malaysia had made numerous attempts on goal in the third quarter, including a penalty corner, an alert Krishan who had come back to the post did well to keep India’s lead.
The fourth quarter though saw Malaysia score a field goal through Firhan Ashari in the 57th minute that did well to beat Sreejesh at the post after he had made two great saves earlier in the quarter. In the 58th minute, a brilliant circle entry and assist by Sumit Kumar Jr to Mandeep Singh helped him score India’s fourth goal ending the match on 4-2.
India’s defence held strong and adamant to not allow last-minute errors to take home three points from the win. Birendra Lakra was named the man of the match for his efforts in helping India defend their lead.