London: Malaysia has always been a thorn in the Indian hockey team’s flesh and so it proved it again.
A little over six weeks ago Malaysia beat India in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and denied them a spot in the final. On Thursday here in London in the Hero Hockey World League they again beat India 3-2 to deny them a place in the semi-finals.
In the end, it was India’s inability to stem the flow of penalty corners and Malaysia’s ability to convert them that made the difference.
Razie Rahim (19th and 48th) and Tengku Tajuddin (20th) scored for Malaysia, while Ramandeep Singh (24th and 26th) scored for India’s but his miss in the final minute will haunt him for a while.
Malaysia entered the semi-final to earn a clash with World No 1 Argentina, and also grabbed a place into next year’s World Cup in Bhubaneshwar in 2018 and also the World Hockey League final in India in December 2017.
It also meant a second India-Pakistan clash, but for minor places.
India have no one but themselves to blame for a defeat that need not have been. Malaysia moved 2-0 up within first 20 minutes, but India got back to level matters within six minutes after that. Then in the final quarter, Rahim got the match winner and India missed countless chances.
The teams went goalless in the first quarter, but soon after resumption in second, off their third penalty corner, Razie Rahim scored as his drag flick was deflected by Vikas Dahiya’s stick into the roof of the net.
A minute later, Malaysia got their second goal and once again ball went into the roof of the net. This time Rahim’s grounder saw Tengku Tajuddin change its direction as it flew to the top but inside the goal to make it 2-0.
However, a goal for India about four minutes later changed things. Ramandeep Singh’s first goal, which he deflected off a long cross from Manpreet Singh, where Sumit was also involved in the move, gave India impetus as the margin was reduced to 1-2.
Two minutes later, Ramandeep struck again, this time in a melee following a penalty corner, which was India’s first and it came their way after asking for a video referral. Harmanpreet Singh took the flick, but it was cleared by Malaysian goalkeeper, Subramaniam Kumar.
Chinglensana took the rebound but even that was stopped, but off the next rebound, Ramandeep scored to equalize matters to 2-2 at half time.
In the third quarter Sardar earned India a penalty corner, but India were unable to score of it. A minute later Talwinder despite having adequate space hit wide and it was one of the many misses that was to prove costly.
The battle of attrition saw Malaysia got a third and winning goal, from Razie Rahim and try as India just could not manage to get back the equalizer.
Even in the very last minute, Ramandeep, who had earlier given India a chance with two goals in second quarter, was the culprit as he came in the way of a goal-bound in the goalmouth put a stick to a ball and pushed out when a Jasjit Kular shot seemed to be heading into the goal. Ramandeep in the goalmouth got his stick in the way and ball bounced out and with that India, too were bounced out of the tournament.
With a little over two and a half minutes left, goalkeeper Akash Chitke also came off as a desperate India tried everything, but in vain.
At the start of the final quarter, facing imminent defeat after Malaysia’s third goal, India did press, and made moves, but kept missing chances in a bunch. In the 54th minute, Akashdeep missed a chance, hitting wide. Malaysia were content to defend their lead.
Malaysia started aggressively and ended defensively and both times India were caught napping.