Kuantan (Malaysia), Nov 15 (IANS) India withstood a strong Malaysia challenge before winning 5-4 to register their second consecutive victory in as many games of the 8th Junior Men’s Asia Cup hockey tournament here on Sunday. With this win, India rose to the top of the table with two straight wins and will play China in their last encounter of the group stage on Tuesday.
India caught a horrible start as Malaysia’s Shahril Saabah scored a field goal in the very first minute. India, however, came back strongly to level 1-1 within 10 minutes of the first half through forward Mandeep Singh. The first half saw both the teams pressing hard until Saabah scored again to help Malaysia take the lead in the 25th minute. The second half started with India again conceding a penalty corner to Malaysia but it was bravely saved by Indian goalkeeper Suraj Karkera.
The save started the turnaround for India in the match with Gurjant Singh scoring the equalising goal in the 40th minute. The Indian forwards pressed hard and their efforts were duly rewarded with two back-to-back penalty corners, one of which was beautifully converted by Harmanpreet Singh in the 46th minute to give India the much needed lead for the first time in the game.
Another streak of consecutive penalty corners resulted in India converting another one through Harmanpreet and take India’s lead to 4-2 in the 56th minute. Mandeep’s second goal five minutes ensured India’s comfortable three-goal lead at 5-2. However the Malaysians thereafter fought back as Ismat Sufi Rohulamin scored in the 62nd minute to reduce the deficit to two. Four minutes later, Saabah completed his hat-trick to make it 4-5 as the hosts searched for their equaliser in the next four minutes but were unsuccessful.
India chief coach Harendra Singh termed the result “a narrow escape” for his side. “It was a very good effort by the team. The boys showed impeccable attacking ability by putting five goals past the opponents. The defence was tested to such an extent for the first time in the tournament and it was a narrow escape,” Harendra said in a release. “We will take the positives out of the game and work hard on deriving a balance between attack and defence.”