CHENNAI: India exacted revenge for their Asian Games semifinal shootout loss by thrashing hosts Malaysia 4-2 in an exciting encounter of the 8th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2019 in Ipoh on Tuesday.
The win saw India climb to second spot with seven points from three games, behind Korea on goal difference. India had beaten Asian Games gold winners Japan 2-0 in their opening game before drawing their second against the current leaders. Malaysia may be ranked 13th in the world, but they have been a thorn in the flesh of India over the last couple of years. They had pipped India 7-6 in Asian Games tie-breaker to deny the World No 5 side a chance to win gold. In 2017, Malaysia emerged victorious in the Hockey World League Semifinal in London as well as in the Azlan Shah Cup.
But the Indians have improved their recent record. In the last five matches against Malaysia, India have won thrice, including the latest one. They won twice on way to winning the 2017 Asia Cup while also coming up trumps in last year’s Commonwealth Games.
David John’s boys began brightly. India were the first to foray into the striking circle with some skilful moves by forward Simranjeet Singh but the hosts were alert to ward off the danger. Varun Kumar’s pass into 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 a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute.
Soon after, Malaysia, through a good counterattack, won their second penalty corner of the day. Though the first one was well saved by PR Sreejesh, who replaced Krishan in the goal after the first quarter, Razie Rahim did not disappoint struck low to give Malaysia an equaliser in the 21st minute. The crowd were treated to some exciting stuff as both sides went for the kill. A tackle by Sumit to dispossess Faizal Saari set up India’s second goal. This time it was Sumit Kumar Jr who put the ball past goalkeeper Hairi Rahman in the 27th minute.
In the third quarter, Mandeep worked his magic again and won an important penalty corner. He scored on a re-take with a powerful flick, keeping the ball low to the left to make it 3-1.
Egged on by the crowd, the fourth quarter saw Malaysia score a field goal through Firhan Ashari in the 57th minute. But India wrapped things up in the 58th minute. A brilliant circle entry and assist by Sumit Jr to Mandeep helped him score India’s fourth goal. Birendra Lakra was named Man of the Match. India take on Canada next on Wednesday.