Ipoh (Malaysia), April 15 (IANS) India stormed into the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament with a 6-1 thrashing of a hapless Malaysia here on Friday.
Ramandeep Singh (25th, 39th minutes) struck twice for India while Chandanda Thimmiah (3rd), Harjeet Singh (7th), Danish Mujtaba (27th) and Talwinder Singh (50th) scored once each.
Shahril Saabah (46th) got a consolation goal for the hosts in the closing stages.
India will now meet reigning world champions Australia in the final on Saturday. With the Australians already booking their place in the summit clash thanks to their all-win record in this tournament, the men from the sub-continent needed a simple win to pip New Zealand to the second spot the final.
Malaysia, on the other hand, were in an uneviable situation as they needed to win by an eight-goal margin to book their place in the final.
The Indians took the upper hand right at the start when Nikkin Thimmaiah prodded home an accurate pass after some nice work down the left by S.V. Sunil.
India doubled the lead a few minutes later from another excellent build-up down the left when Harjit Singh exploited some poor marking by Izad Jamaluddin and Malaysian skipper Razie Rahim to beat Malaysian goalkeeper Hairi Abdul Rahman with a reverse flick.
India should have increased their lead just before the end of the first quarter when another piece of poor defending by the hosts allowed Sunil to have a crack at goal. But Hairi pulled off an excellent double save, first blocking out Sunil’s shot before denying Danish Mujtaba off the rebound.
The Indians continued to pile on the presure in the second quarter as well, but poor finishing let them down. But a fast counter attack towards the end of the second period saw Sunil leave the Malaysian defenders flatfooted with his speed.
He was brought down by Rahim on the edge of the Malaysian penalty circle as the umpire awarded India a penalty corner while the Malaysian skipper got a yellow card. The Indians came up with a nice variation after the push was stopped poorly. But Mujtaba managed to get the ball to Uthappa, whose hit was deflected into goal by Ramandeep Singh.
The lead was increased further only a couple of minutes later from another penalty corner. Rupinder Pal SIngh’s rising attempt hit the post before Mujtaba pounced on the rebound to fire the ball in past a hapless Hairi.
The men in blue conjured up their fifth goal virtually out of nothing midway through the tird quarter when a hit from well outside the penalty area was steered into goal by Ramandeep Singh, who was lurking just behind Hairi.
The partisan home crowd finally found their some of their voice when Shahril produced a fine finish to gift a consolation goal early in the last quarter. But Talwinder silenced the packed stadium once again when he found the target off a goalmouth melee.
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