Saturday, June 7, 2014

India ride on Akashdeep brace to beat Malaysia 3-2

The competiveness of the Indian team at the 2014 World Cup was never in doubt – just that late goals did them in against higher ranked teams like Belgium and England. The Sardar Singh-led Indians on Saturday showed greater resolve and though they messed up numerous scoring chances that came their way, they did enough to huff and puff to a 3-2 win over Malaysia to chalk up full points at the Kyocera Stadium in The Hague.

India were guilty of frittering away five penalty corners – for a change injection left a lot to be desired as their first goal came through an awful injection as the ball went to Lalit Upadhyay, who essayed a nice pass to Jasjit Singh, who took a stinging shot from the left of the striking circle beating Malaysian goalkeeper S Kumar all ends up.

The Indian forwardline exuded more cohesion as the likes of SV Sunil Dharmvir, Akashdeep and Mandeep stepped up to the plate and created immense pressure in the Malaysia ‘D’. Captain Sardar Singh led from the front and in one instance exhibited hockey of the highest order when he sprinted down the left and jinked past three Malaysians before taking a crack at the Malaysian citadel forcing a robust save from S Kumar. If Sardar regined supreme, Gurbaj also came out all guns blazing and underlined his utility to the side, manning all the areas of the pitch with aplomb.

Malaysia, who trailed by the Jasjit goal at half-time, equalized in the second half when Razie swept home their first penalty corner.

The joy of the Malaysians lasted just three minutes as India regained the lead through Akashdeep Singh in the 49th minute after he deflected home a Rupinder pass. Akashdeep enhanced the lead in the 51st minute when he tapped home a Sardar pass and looked good to pull off a comprehensive win, but Malaysia reduced the margin through Marhan in the 61st minute.

The win has boosted India’s chances of playing in the 5-8 place positions after Belgium beat Spain 5-2, to give the former a better goal average going into the last round of matches.

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