Hockey fans in Kuantan witnessed India and hosts Malaysia play some wonderful hockey, with the former emerging victorious, score reading 2-1 in the Asian Champions Trophy round-robin match on Wednesday. The game was played at a high tempo, and India shone brightly to win their fourth match of the competition with a brace from Rupinder Pal Singh.
With this result, India have topped the group, irrespective of Malaysia's result against South Korea on Thursday. They will play the fourth placed team in the semifinals on Saturday.
Two minutes into the first quarter, India earned a penalty corner, where Rupinder Pal Singh has been dangerous. The drag-flicker hit a wonderful shot, but Malaysia goalkeeper Kumar Subramiam was upto the task, coming up with a huge save to deny the opening goal.
Malaysia, on the other hand, looked good in the initial phases, getting decent possession. They were playing long balls to their forwards, who also asked some questions to India's defence.
But it was the brilliance of Rupinder, which helped India take 1-0 lead in the encounter. After his penalty corner shot was saved, he got a second crack at the ball and he did not make any mistake in finding back of the net in the 12th minute. India were playing some brilliant hockey, but Kumar's glovework helped keep Malaysia in the game.
Affan Yousuf missed a golden chance to double India's lead from close range in the 17th minute, and it proved costly as Razie Rahim converted a penalty corner immediately to draw the game level. After the goal, India were playing some positive hockey, and their forwards including Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh and others penetrated the circle, but could not score.
India could have in fact conceded another goal had it not been for the brilliance of Akash Chikte, who came up with a stunning save to keep the game level. It was breathtaking stuff from both teams, who were looking for that all-important lead before the end of the first half.
With India forwards pressing Malaysia defenders, they were creating pressure on the home team, not allowing them much time on the ball. It is for the same reason Malaysia defender made a mispass, and Ramandeep got a chance to score, but hit it wide. India were inching closer to their second goal every minute in the third quarter, but yet again, Kumar denied Rupinder's drag-flick from the penalty corner.
Later in the quarter, India were in all sorts of pressure with Malaysia playing some brilliant hockey, and threatening India's goal. The pressure was relentless on India's defence, which somehow did not allow Malaysia to score a goal in the third quarter.
India received a major setback with 12 minutes to go in the final quarter as Surender Kumar was shown a yellow card and the visitors had to play with 10-men for next 10 minutes. With both teams looking for the winning goal, it was Rupinder's strike in the 58th minute, which helped India regain lead at 2-1.
Malaysia received a final chance to draw level in the dying minutes of the match, but Chikte saved the penalty corner shot to seal three points.