Dishing out their best show, India mauled hosts Malaysia 5-1 to earn an outside chance of qualifying for the final of the Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament, in Ipoh. India scored through Shilanand Lakra (10th minute), Gurjant Singh (42nd, 57th), Sumit Kumar (48th) and Ramandeep Singh (51st) to register their first full three points in the tournament and keep themselves afloat. Faizal Saari (33rd) was the lone goal scorer for the home team.
With this convincing victory, India has managed to keep alive their final hopes, but it will depend on favourable results from the last round robin fixtures scheduled for Friday. World champions Australia today defeated Ireland 4-1 to already seal their place in the final with four wins from as many matches, but barring Ireland all four other teams are in with a chance to qualify for the summit clash.
Australia are leading the points table with 12 points ahead of second-placed and Olympic champions Argentina (7 points), Malaysia (6), England (5) and India (4). Ireland are already out of the race with four consecutive defeats. But it all depends on permutations and combinations. For India to qualify for the final, they will first have to beat Ireland by a big margin on Friday and hope Australia beat Argentina and the final round robin match between Malaysia and England ends in a draw.
Coming into today’s match with a stunning 2-1 win against Olympic Champions Argentina, Malaysia were quick to get off the blocks, attacking India’s circle. But it was India who drew the first blood with an opening goal through Shilanand in the 10th minute. The new entrant in the Indian team did exceptionally well to pick up a baseline pass from Gurjant to tap it over the Malaysian goalkeeper.
The following minutes saw Indian goalkeeper Suraj Karkera stay busy at the post as he made some brilliant saves to deny the hosts. India did well to dominate with ball possession while their defence stuck to their task. Surender Kumar, Shilanand and Sumit worked in tandem to win the first penalty corner of the match in the second quarter but Amit Rohidas’s flick was parried away by the Malaysian goalkeeper.
With just one goal up, India had their task cut out in the third quarter. Conceding a penalty corner three minutes into the third quarter didn’t help their cause as Saari was bang on target to score past Karkera to draw level in the 33rd minute. A penalty corner in the 42nd minute saw Gurjant hold on to the rebound, after Varun Kumar’s flick rebounded off the goalkeeper. An attentive Gurjant then tapped the ball into the post to fetch India the much-needed 2-1 lead.
The action boiled down to the final quarter when India changed gears and attacked the hosts who looked like they were losing steam. Though Malaysia won a penalty corner at the start of the fourth quarter, Karkera did an outstanding job to keep Malaysia skipper Razie Rahim from scoring. It was Ramandeep who did well as a feeder when he brilliantly assisted Sumit who scored India’s third goal in the 48th minute.
India scored two more goals through Ramandeep and Gurjant, who scored in similar fashions from rebounds of penalty corners to seal the match in their side’s favour.