India boosted their chances of playing for the championship match at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup with a hard-fought 3-2 win over hosts Malaysia on Monday that made them joint second alongside Argentina in the points table.
Danish Mujtaba and Shivendra Singh put India 2-0 ahead with just 11 minutes into the game, which put Malaysia on the back foot for the remainder of the first half which ended at the same scoreline.
Danish got India onto the scoresheet when he scored in a goal-mouth melee after Sarwanjit's shot rebounded off the Malaysian goalkeeper. Shivendra struck off a penalty corner India earned in the 11th minute, when he sounded the board from the top of the circle.
But the hosts re-strategised at the break and pulled a goal back in the 40th minute through Mohd Amin Rahim, who scored off a penalty corner. India skipper Bharat Chetri almost came up with another splendid save but the shot deflected off him into the net. Chetri was declared the Man of the Match for his jaw-dropping goalkeeping that saved the day for India.
However, Tushar Khandker made it 3-1 in the very next minute to help India regain a one-goal cushion. That goal was set up by Indian centre-half Sardar Singh with a well-disguised reverse pass into the circle. Sunil collected it and took the initial strike that the goalkeeper stopped. The rebound fell in front of Tushar who slotted the ball in.
The match opened up thereafter with Malaysia training all guns at the Indian goals in a display of exhilarating hockey. The relentless pressure paid off when Fitri Saar reduced the margin to 3-2 in the 58th minute. The Malaysian ended his run into the Indian circle with nice aerial hit into the net from close to the right baseline.
The last 12 minutes of the game saw end-to-end stuff where both the teams ran each other close. But Malaysia's low conversion rate on the penalty corners, one out of six, proved costly in the end as India scampered to a win. India, on the other hand, got three penalty corners and converted one.
India rested P Sreejesh and Rupinder Pal Singh for the match. They were replaced by Chetri in the goal and a fit-again Shivendra in the forward line.
With this win, India are now joint second with Argentina on six points from four games, while New Zealand rule the table at the top with a three-match unbeaten run giving them nine points.