Ipoh (Malaysia), March 8
Dishing out their best performance, India mauled hosts Malaysia 5-1 to earn an outside chance of qualifying for the final of the Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament here today.
India scored through Shilanand Lakra (10th minute), Gurjant Singh (42nd, 57th), Sumit Kumar (48th) and Ramandeep Singh (51st) to register their first win in the tournament and keep themselves afloat. Faizal Saari (33rd) was the lone goal scorer for the home team.
With this convincing victory, India have 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 the 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 Olympics champions Argentina (7 points), Malaysia (6), England (5) and India (4). Ireland are already out of the race with four consecutive defeats.
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 Olympics champions Argentina, Malaysia were quick to get off the blocks, attacking India’s circle.
But it was India who drew first blood with an opening goal through Lakra in the 10th minute. The new entrant in the Indian team did exceptionally well to pick up a baseline pass from Gurjant and scoop it over the Malaysian goalkeeper.
The following minutes saw Indian goalkeeper Suraj Karkera stay busy as he made some brilliant saves to deny the hosts. However, Malaysia came all out to get the equaliser. Conceding a penalty corner three minutes into the third quarter didn’t help India’s cause as Saari was bang on target.
However, a penalty corner in the 42nd minute saw Gurjant tap in a rebound after Varun Kumar’s drag-flick to help India regain the lead.
The action boiled down to the final quarter when India changed gears and attacked the hosts who looked like they were losing steam.
Ramandeep brilliantly assisted Sumit for India’s third goal. India got two more goals through Ramandeep and Gurjant — both scoring from penalty corner rebounds — to seal the match in their side’s favour.