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India finish runners-up in Sultan of Johor Cup, lose to Germany

India were the only unbeaten team, going into the final

The crowd had turned up in droves at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium in Johor Bahru, Malaysia in anticipation of an edge-of-the-seat final encounter between India and Germany. A huge chunk of the spectators were rooting for India – the only unbeaten team in the tournament – as the summit clash got under way.

So, India had a lot of things going for them – crowd support and an in-form side. But they were up against a German side, who appeared more determined to prove a point or two. In fact, it showed as the Germans made incisive raids and defended well enough to prevail over India 3-2 to win the 2nd Sultan of Johor Cup.

The match started on a sedate note as both teams tried to size each other up in the first few minutes of play with neither side essaying any threatening raids at each other’s goalmouth. Germany, who were handed a 1-3 defeat by India in the league phase, slowly but surely hit the straps and started enjoying possession, which bore fruit as Jonas Gomoll drew first blood in the 11th minute.

Stung by the opening salvo, the Indians tried hard to regroup against a German side which was not willing to drop their guard at any point of time. Satbir Singh brought things on even kneel when he rattled the cage in the 24th minute.

The goal pepped up the Indians who forced a penalty corner one minute later and nearly went ahead but for a superb save by German goalkeeper Victor. Four minutes later, Akashdeep Singh had another opportunity to take his side ahead but he made a hash of that chance, hitting the post.

Germany soon made India pay for those two slip-ups as Joshua Delarber once again put Germany ahead in the 30th minute to enable his side hold a 2-1 advantage at half time. Germany showed more aggression in the second half as they earned their third penalty corner in the 37th minute, which resulted in a follow-on short corner but India somehow managed to deny Germany a goal.

Florian Adrians made it 3-1 for Germany in the 49th minute, leaving Indians with an enormous task of coming back into the match. The final ten minutes of play saw Germany calling the shots – they forced two penalty corners in the 60th and 62nd minutes respectively to maintain its tight grip over India, who were not allowed to break free.

Akashdeep Singh raised visions of a likely fightback, reducing the deficit in the 67th minute. However, it came too little too late as the clock was ticking away much to India’s disappointment.

The runners-up finish is a much improved show for India after their fourth place finish in the inaugural edition.

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