An inspired Malaysia put the Reigning Champions the Indian Men’s Hockey Team out of contention for the Gold Medal after scoring a 7-6 win in the pressure-packed sudden death shootout here at the 18th Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang on Thursday.
The Indian team fumbled twice to lose the lead in regulation time to end the 60 minutes play with a 2-2 draw. It was youngsters Harmanpreet Singh (33′) and Varun Kumar (40′) who had scored in regulation time for India while Faizal Saari (39′) and Rahim Muhammad Razie (59′) equalised for Malaysia and took the match into the shootout.
A tenacious Malaysian side kept the Defending Champions in the hunt right from the start. Though India’s attack was successful in earning the match’s first PC within two minutes of the match, Malaysian Goalkeeper Kumar Subramiam was a fortress — difficult to breach. He made a brilliant save off Harmanpreet Singh’s flick to keep India from taking an early lead.
The following minutes saw both teams trade PCs thoroughly tested the two experienced goalkeepers Subramiam of Malaysia and PR Sreejesh of India. In the 6th minute, Malaysia tricked the Indian defence to beautifully execute a PC variation after an infringement by Indian defender Amit Rohidas saw India concede their first PC. The goal however, was disallowed after a smart call for video referral by India. The ball on being injected had brushed past the Malaysian drag-flicker Muhammad Shahril on the top of the circle before the variation was executed.
The match was evenly played out in the second quarter with both teams being on par with each other. An inspired Malaysia though proved to be a tough juggernaut to crack as they matched India’s high-speed game, rarely gave Indian attackers space in the circle while their defence held strong. India by the end of second quarter had taken six unsuccessful shots on goal, with one field goal attempt and five PCs while Malaysia had registered five shots on goal, four of which coming off PCs.
With scoreboard reading 0-0 at the start of the third quarter, the game was tense and continued to be a game of penalty corners with India earning a PC within two minutes of the third quarter. This time, 22-year-old Harmanpreet Singh was excellent, using great pace from a perfect injection by Akashdeep Singh to powerfully flick the ball past Malaysian Goalkeeper Subramiam. In the 38th minute, India was awarded a PC after good stick work by Mandeep Singh in the circle but the opportunity was not only wasted by India but lost the ball to Malaysia who launched a high-pace counter attack that eventually ended with Faizal Saari scoring the equaliser for Malaysia in the 39th minute.
India however regained the lead after a smart PC variation saw Harmanpreet Singh assist Varun Kumar who took a successful shot on the goal to take India’s score to 2-1 in the 40th minute. The match continued to remain tense as India fought for another goal and in the melee ended up with 10 players on the field with experienced Sardar Singh being yellow carded.
The fourth quarter saw India start with ten player, Malaysia looked to take advantage as they won a PC in the opening minute. However, Sreejesh was up to the task as he saved Faizal Saari’s dragflick. Malaysia continued to rattle India’s defence and were even successful as the pressure got to the Indians with Surender Kumar too being yellow carded in the 46th minute. Down to nine players on the field, India had to thread carefully and cautiously. Malaysia had yet another chance at PC in the 50th minute but was unsuccessful. With time ticking away, Malaysia continued to put pressure on India as they upped the ante for an elusive equaliser. With a little over two minutes for the final hooter, Malaysia pulled out their goalkeeper to add an extra man in their attack. The effort helped them win a PC in the 59th minute and even converted it with Rahim Muhammad Razie beating PR Sreejesh with a low hard-flick ending the match in 2-2 draw, taking the game into a shootout.
On Saturday, 1st September 2018, Indian Men’s Hockey Team will take on the losing team of second semifinal between Pakistan and Japan in the Bronze Medal Match at 16.00 hours.