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Akashdeep scores twice as India win

The Hague: Akashdeep Singh scored two goals in the space of three minutes to set up India’s 3-2 victory over Malaysia in the men’s hockey World Cup, on Saturday.

Jasjit Singh Kular opened the scoring for India in the 13th minute and Malaysia equalised in the 45th with a penalty corner conversion by Mohammad Razie before Akashdeep got into the goal-scoring act, which helped his team post its first win of the tournament.

Akashdeep first applied the finishing touch to Rupinder Pal Singh fine run on a counter-attack by deflecting in a diagonal cross into the boards in the 49th minute. Two minutes later, he picked up a pass from captain Sardar Singh inside the circle and slammed the ball past the desperate goalkeeper.

Malaysia reduced the lead in the 61st minute when Marhan Jalil fired in on a rebound from Indian goalkeeper P R Sreejesh on a breakaway move.

India wasted several scoring opportunities, but also had to depend on their defenders to keep out the dangerous Malaysian raids in the closing stages.

The victory gives India four points from as many matches in Group A, and ensures that it would not face the ignominy of being the bottom-placed team in the pool. Irrespective of the result of India’s last group match — against defending World champions Australia — they will finish either in the fourth or fifth spot.

A combination of results in the last league outings for India, Spain and Malaysia would have bearing on the final group standings. Spain will play Malaysia in their last league outing.

Malaysia have lost all four matches, while Spain have two draws from four games. A victory for Malaysia could pave the way for India to finish fourth in the group and play the playoff for the seventh and eighth spots.

Defending champions Australia became the first team to ensure passage into the semi-finals with a 5-0 hammering of England, giving them a maximum 12 points from four matches in Group A.

Spain were handed down a 5-2 drubbing by Belgium, who are back in contention for a semi-final place.

India first got into the Malaysian circle in the eighth minute when Rupinder moved up and sent the ball from top of the circle toward Mandeep Singh, but a defender had no difficulty in clearing it.