Asian Champions Trophy 2016: India defeat hosts Malaysia 2-1 to secure top spot
India sealed their place at the top of the league table after defeating the hosts Malaysia 2-1 in dramatic fashion, courtesy of a brace from their ace drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh. Going into the game at the top of the table with 10 points from 4 games, the India Men's hockey team took on Malaysia today in their final game of the pool stage after guaranteeing the semi-final spot by destroying China in a brilliant 9-0 victory last night.
Malaysia, on the other handed headed into the game placed second; just below India in the table after having had a perfect run in the tournament winning all their 3 games initially.
Akashdeep kicked off the ball from the centre while the team in orange looked in good shape for the initial few minutes. But soon enough India established their dominance as Rupinder Pal Singh took a blazing attempt on goal from India’s first penalty corner and would have given India the lead if not for the fantastic reflexes of the Malaysian keeper.
The game was equally contested until India broke the deadlock. With just 3 minutes left in the 1st quarter, it was Rupinder again who buried a rebound that ricocheted off the woodwork from his own penalty corner, taking his total tally to 9 goals in the tournament.
Things were not looking good for the hosts as Malaysian forward Haziq Samsul received a green card reducing the hosts to 10 players while a goal behind. However, they were not yet ready to give up as they pulled up their socks and came back with a brilliant goal scored by Razie Rahim in the final quarter of the first half from a penalty corner of their own.
Both the countries headed into halftime tied at 1-1 as they looked to capitalize on their missed chances coming back from the break.
Malaysia looked on the front foot with the beginning of the second half as they dominated 57% of the possession over India in the third quarter. However, neither team were able to trouble the scorers in the period.
Big setback for India
The Men in Blue received their biggest setback of the match when defender Surender Kumar picked up a yellow card, which led to him getting suspended for 15 minutes, reducing Oltmans men to 10 for the final 11 minutes of the game.
However, a resolute Indian team held, showing much gusto and in the closing moments with 2 minutes and 26 seconds left, won a penalty corner. Rupinder Pal Singh, who had been denied twice earlier in the game bulleted home to give India their winner, becoming the top scorer of the tournament taking his total tally to 10 goals.
Indian keeper Akash Chikte, who was entrusted between the sticks by Roelant Oltmans ahead of the ever-reliable PR Sreejsh also played an integral part in India' victory today as put up a commendable performance with his quick reflexes and clinical saves to safeguard the goal. And he romped his way to a starring performance that was capped by another glorious save right at the end of the game.
Malaysia next plays Korea for a 2nd spot finish tomorrow after failing to clinch the top spot. Meanwhile, India will have to wait another day to know their opponents after the securing top spot after they garnered 13 points from 5 games. India will play the fourth placed team in the semis which will be decided after tomorrow’s fixtures.