India nearly gave up their three-goal advantage and went through some anxious moments before edging out hosts Malaysia 5-4 in their second out at the junior Asia Cup in Kuantan on Sunday. With this win India rises to the top of the table in Pool A with two straight wins and will play China in their last encounter of the group stage on Tuesday. India had defeated Japan 2-1 in their tournament opener on Saturday.
Malaysia drew the first blood with an opening minute field goal leaving India on the back foot in the beginning of the match. India, however, came back strongly to level the scores within 10 minutes through forward Mandeep Singh. The first half saw both the teams pressing hard until Malaysia scored again to take the lead in the 25th minute.Trailing 1-2 India pressed hard for goals in the second half but in the process conceded a penalty corner on a counter 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 second goal for India level the score 2-2.
With 23 minutes left in the game, the Indian forwards pressed hard on the Malaysians and their efforts were duly rewarded with two back to back penalty corners, one of which was beautifully converted by skipper Harmanpreet Singh to give India the much needed lead for the first time in the game.
Another streak of consecutive penalty corners within seven minutes resulted in India converting another set piece through Harmanpreet Singh and taking India’s lead to 4-2. Mandeep’s second goal of the match shortly after ensured India’s comfortable three goal lead as the score stood at 5-2.
However, the Malaysians thereafter pressed hard and succeeded twice to break through the Indian defence to score two consecutive goals in the dying moments of the game, thus narrowing the lead to a close 4-5. The Indian colts thereafter made no errors and earned their second consecutive victory in the tournament.
Junior team coach Harendra Singh said he was happy with the attacking abilities but looked concerned about the defence.
“It was a very good effort by the team. The boys showed impeccable attacking ability by putting 5 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. We will take the positives out of the game and work hard on deriving a balance between attack and defence,” he said.
India are placed in Pool A along side hosts Malaysia, Japan and China.