Hyderabad: The Indian menís hockey team squandered numerous chances before scraping past Malaysia via tie-breaker in the semi-final of the Afro-Asian Games on Wednesday. In the final they will meet Pakistan, who beat South Korea 2-0.
Though India dominated, they were made to toil for the 6-4 win as their forwards, who had scripted a scintillating win against Pakistan in the league match on Monday, failed to convert chances that came their way.
The teams were locked 1-1 at the completion of 70 minutes and even after 15 minutes of extra time. After that, however, India came up with a smart display, converting all five strokes in the shootout. Malaysia managed just three with Devesh Chauhan coming up with a fine save.
Indiaís inability to score extended the match beyond extra time, giving some anxious moments to the cheering supporters. The final is slated for Friday.
During regulation time, Arjun Halappa put India ahead in the 21st minute and Malaysia restored parity through Huat Chua a minute later. Halappa, Bimal Lakra, Gagan Ajit Singh, Prabhjot Singh and Kanwalpreet Singh scored for India in the tie-breaker.
Keevan Raj Kali, skipper Kuhan and Muhammed Amin Rahim struck for the visitors in the shootout.
The Indians looked a bit rusty in their approach and struggled initially to come to terms with the game.
They tried hard for possession in the initial minutes and took some time to settled down before shifting to top gear with repeated attacks on the opposition goal.
The home sideís first incisive move came in the fifth minute when Halappa went close to the opposition circle and slammed a cross but Gagan Ajitís deflection went narrowly wide.
The next two minutes saw India make at least three good moves but all without any success.
Halappa was again instrumental in setting the stage with a perfect run and it was Gagan Ajit who missed the chance for the second consecutive time.
Few seconds later, Deepak Thakur, who was lurking near the Malaysian goal, got a pass from the midfield but failed to stop it properly. The Malaysian defenders got the time they needed and cleared the ball away.
In between, Malaysia forced a penalty corner in the 12th minute though they failed to make most of it as goalkeeper Chauhan dived to his right to thwart the attempt.
A fine pass from Ignace Tirkey to Prabhjot on the left ignited Indian hopes of a lead. Halappa, who got the ball from Prabhjot, hit a reverse flick from a difficult angle but there was no Indian inside the circle to take advantage of the situation.
The Indians were finally rewarded for their perseverance when a fine interception by Ignace inside his own half was followed by a superb run by Prabhjot. Halappa did not disappoint as after getting the pass he slotted the ball home.
Malaysia struck back almost immediately, converting their second penalty corner. Though India tried hard to regain the lead some poor finishing, particularly by Prabhjot, kept denying them.