Dhaka (Bangladesh): It was a Diwali blockbuster in Dhaka as a resilient Indian men’s hockey team edged out Malaysia 6-2 in their Super 4s match to stay on course to make the Asia Cup 2017 Final here at the Moulana Bhashani Hockey Stadium on Thursday. After suffering two back-to-back loses to Malaysia earlier this year, the Manpreet Singh-led Indian team ensured a well-structured game to demolish the Malaysian defence. It was goals by Akashdeep Singh (14’), Harmanpreet Singh (19’) and SK Uthappa (24’) that gave India a 3-0 head start followed by Gurjant Singh (33’), SV Sunil (40’) and Sardar Singh (60’) who ensured fireworks in favour of India.
Played in front of a vocal and partisan home crowd there was no doubt that this top of the table clash was going to be played with pace and skill and the teams didn't disappoint. Having won all their matches thus far in the tournament, Malaysia raced out of the blocks at a frenetic pace, attacking India constantly. They made two strong circle entries at the start of the game but an alert Indian defence kept them out of scoring. India’s first break-through came in the 14th minute when Manpreet Singh assisted Akashdeep Singh inside the circle with a fiercely-struck long pass. The Indian forward was impeccable in his attempt to improvise the pass to beat the Malaysian goalkeeper Kumar Subramiam to take a 1-0 lead in the first quarter.
The second quarter saw Indian goalkeeper Suraj Karkera make brilliant saves that had the Dhaka audience in raptures. His first big save came only two minutes into the second quarter when Malaysia won a PC. Karkera was resolute to pad it away. Later in the 23rd minute, another PC was averted when Karkera saved a fiercely struck dragflick to keep Malaysia from converting. Earlier, Harmanpreet Singh was at his best when he found the centre of the goal to take India’s lead to 2-0 in the 19th minute. A good assist by SV Sunil saw SK Uthappa score India’s third goal in the 24th minute.
Post the 10-minute half-time break, India scored two more goals to stamp their supremacy over Malaysia. It was Gurjant Singh in the 33rd minute followed by a splendid goal by SV Sunil brilliantly-assisted by Gurjant Singh who worked in tandem to score India’s fifth goal. A trademark reverse hit by Gurjant from the left flank to Sunil who made a diving attempt to push the ball into the post ensured the local crowds were thoroughly entertained. This goal by SV Sunil was also adjudged as the goal of the match.
The final quarter saw India make a few defensive errors that saw them concede PCs. With 10 minutes to the final hooter, Malaysia’s Razie Rahim utilized the chance to put one past a diving Akash Chikte in the 50th minute. Malaysia won another PC in the 54th minute but Chikte was outstanding in his save. Almost immediately, Malaysia won another PC but an alert Chikte averted a goal again. Malaysia won two back-to-back PCs in the 58th minute but couldn’t make the chance count. Though their second goal came through in the 59th minute via Ramadan Rosli, India extended their lead in the 60th minute when stalwart Sardar Singh picked up a brilliant assist to get a reverse shot on goal. There were some tense moments towards the final minutes of the match but India held their sway to win.