Gold Coast (Australia), 10 April 2018: Indian Men’s Hockey Team kept their Semifinal hopes alive as they beat Malaysia 2-1 in their third Pool B encounter here at the XXI Commonwealth Games on Tuesday. Harmanpreet Singh (3’, 44’) scored twice in India’s win while Faizal Saari (16’) was the lone goal scorer for Malaysia.
India got off to an ideal start with forward Mandeep Singh winning the first PC of the match in the 2nd minute. Harmanpreet Singh came up with a perfect dragflick, improvising on the injection and keeping the ball low to his right to find the gap and fetch India an early 1-0 lead. Though Malaysia too won a PC in the 5th minute Razie Rahim’s flick was off the mark.
Malaysia made amends for a poor start as they converted a brilliant field goal through Faizal Saari in the opening minute of the second quarter. He almost had a free run with no Indian defender threatening him in the circle, though Sreejesh tackled him upfront, Saari had timed the release well enough to see it through and equalize 1-
India, meanwhile, opened their chances to score with Mandeep and Gurjant taking shots on goal in the 21st and 28th minutes respectively but were slightly off the mark while earlier Varun Kumar had missed an opportunity to convert India’s second PC.
India upped their attack in the third quarter, pushing for the elusive lead. After nearly five attempts at PC this quarter between Indian drag-flickers Rupinder Pal Singh and Harmanpreet Singh, the team eventually regained 2-1 lead in the 44th minute when Harmanpreet converted in his sixth attempt. This time, he found the top left corner of the post, giving little opportunity for Malaysian defenders to save. Earlier, Dilpreet Singh had a shot on goal but was saved by the Malaysian defence.
The contest continued to remain tense into the final quarter. With just a goal ahead, India threaded cautiously, keeping a close check on their defence while the forwards looked for a breakthrough. SV Sunil earned India just what they were looking for – a penalty corner in the 57th minute. But an alert Malaysian goalkeeper came up with a brilliant save to keep Harmanpreet Singh from converting a hat-trick. However, India held on to the lead and eventually won their second successive match in Pool B. “We are happy to be on the winning side. I think the team has improved since our first match against Pakistan. Though there are still certain areas we must get better with, this win will give the team a good momentum for the next match,” stated Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne.
With two successive wins against Wales (4-3) and Malaysia (2-1) and a 2-2 draw against Pakistan, India have topped the table with seven points. They play England in their Final Pool B match on Wednesday. “Again, it’s not about the opponents but our own game. I am yet to see this team come up with a 7/10 performance in this tournament. If each of them manage to play their role to perfection, I am confident of a good show against England,” Marijne stated.