| Dhanraj Pillay is challenged by a Bangladesh defender during their Asia Cup clash in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Kuala Lumpur: India swamped minnows Bangladesh 10-0 to join Pakistan in the semi-finals from pool B of the Asia Cup hockey tournament here on Tuesday.
Toying with a sloppy Bangladesh defence, eight players sounded the board as India scripted the biggest win of the tournament so far.
While Dilip Tirkey (7th, 55th) and Gagan Ajit Singh (37th, 50th) scored twice, Deepak Thakur (11th), Vikram Pillay 16th), Dhanraj Pillay (33rd), Sandeep Michael (35), Prabhjot Singh (48th) and Baljit Singh Dhillon (53rd) netted once each.
India, who scored five goals each in both halves, could have won by a bigger margin had they not frittered away at least a dozen scoring opportunities.
The big win must have done a world of good to the side’s confidence since they will be playing Pakistan on Wednesday.
Though the match against Pakistan will only help determine the pool leaders, for India it will be of immense importance since it will give them the perfect opportunity to avenge last month’s Champions Trophy loss.
India played at full strength in order to beat Bangladesh by a big margin and to edge Pakistan out should goal average come into play to decide the pool toppers.
They managed to achieve their first target but just about missed the other. India now have the same goal difference as Pakistan (14). India needed to score one more goal in the day’s game but failed to do so in the last 15 minutes of play wasting as many as five golden chances.
If the Indo-Pak match, with both on 6 points, is tied till the end of scheduled time, the group topper would be decided via tiebreaker.
Although the Indians won by a big margin their penalty corner conversion still left a lot to be desired. They earned eight penalty corners but converted only three.
Coach Rajinder Singh conceded that the short corner conversion needed to be sorted out before the match against Pakistan.
“We cannot afford to miss so many short corners against Pakistan especially so because they are very good at it. We will try to sort out and regroup in time,” Rajinder said after the match.
The Indians, trying to win their first Asia Cup after finishing runners-up four times, started with a bang when dependable defender Dilip Tirkey’s powerful direct hit found the net in the seventh minute.
India, who went into the breather with a 5-0 lead, forced short corners in the eighth and ninth minutes but wasted them with Baljit Singh Dhillon muffing a rather easy chance on one occasion.
But they quickly got their act together and scored their second goal in the 11th minute. Dhanraj, showing his classic vintage form, gave a beauty of a pass to Thakur who made no mistake.
Four minutes later India earned their fourth penalty corner but it was again wasted by Dhillon, his wayward shot sailing over the bar.
The Indians continued to attack relentlessly and were rewarded in the 26th minute when Prabhjot’s pass was collected by Vikram, who gently tapped the ball in (3-0).
India made it 4-0 two minutes before the break when Dhanraj exploited a goalmouth melee to gently push the ball in.
India were awarded a stroke in the 35th minute after Mohammed Ashraful Islam’s attempt to check the Indian forward resulted in him being sent out. Michael found the net.
In the second half Gagan Ajit scored two field goals. Error-prone Dhillon and Prabhjot also got on to the scoresheet once each. Tirkey rounded off the tally in the 55th minute.
Korea win 7-1
In a pool A match, holders South Korea steam rolled Hong Kong 7-1 to keep alive semifinal chances.
The two-time Asia Cup winners and Asian Games gold-medallists were back in top form after they were forced to share points in the opening match against Malaysia.
South Korea, who have four points from two outings, would need to beat Japan in their last league match on Wednesday to make it to the last four as the second team from the pool.