India lost their last and final group game at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia to rule themselves out of playing in the gold medal match. Shahril Saabah scored the only goal of the game in the 51st minute after Malaysia converted their fourth penalty corner chances with Akash Chikte beaten down the centre. This helped Malaysia to first win in the tournament while handing India their second defeat.
The four-time champions India didn’t produce a strong display of hockey with many stray passes and didn’t look convincing going forward. This helped hosts Malaysia easily contain India who came into it with four goals in the previous match (vs Japan) which kept their hopes alive. But on Friday, these heroics were not to be repeated with none of the players standing up and making themselves count – the way Mandeep Singh did against Japan.
India came into the match with a clear knowledge of their fate in the tournament. They needed to win by two goals or three goals goals to book their berth in the final against Australia. 1-0 wouldn’t have been enough and 2-1 would have forced a penalty shoot out with Great Britain. But as things transpired, India never looked good enough to win and produced proper scoring chances only in the final few minutes of the game.
On the day, Great Britain beat New Zealand 3-2 and Japan triumphed in sensational manner to beat two-time reigning World Cup champions Australia 3-2 as well.
India bagged five penalty corners but failed to test the goalkeeper on more than one occasion. The best of the lot was the last one where Chinglensana Singh trapped the ball for Rupinder Pal Singh who passed it to Sardar Singh but the latter was unable to push the ball home after a nice variation.
Malaysia were 0/3 from penalty corners until they broke their duck of two straight games without a goal. A blistering strike by Saabah once again brought into question India’s vulnerability in goal in the absence of PR Sreejesh.
The defeat means India won’t contest the gold medal match, which will be played between Australia and Great Britain, but will face off with New Zealand in a third-fourth place match on Saturday evening.
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