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Shahril breaks India’s comeback with stunning goal

Malaysia stunned World No 6 India with a 1-0 victory and in the process allowed Great Britain and Australia to feature in the final of the 26th edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Men’s International Hockey Tournament on Saturday.

With defending champions Australia virtually through to Saturday’s final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup for the 13th time since 1983, India and Great Britain were reduced to battling for a spot in the final.

Great Britain had earlier defeated New Zealand 3-2 and Japan, placed 16 in the FIH World Rankings, scored the biggest upset of the tournament today following a 3-2 triumph over World champions and World No 2 Australia who have won the title here nine times.

The Australians and Britons shared 10 equal points but the Kookaburras go on top of the table standings with a seven-goal difference – four ahead of the Britons. With this defeat, India finished third and plays New Zealand for the bronze medal tomorrow whilst Malaysia takes on Japan in the fifth-sixth playoff match.

Needing to win by more than two goals to unseat the Britons to secure a spot in the final, nothing that the Indians did went right.

The Malaysians got off on a fiery pace, winning a penalty corner in the 11th minute but the decision by the umpire was cancelled following a review by the video referral official. The first quarter ended in a stalemate.

India came back stronger in the second quarter to win their first penalty corner in the 18th minute but goalkeeper S. Kumar was in his element as he denied Rupinder Pal Singh’s drive to the top right post with a diving clearance. Roelant Oltmans India went to win two more penalty corners but nothing came out of it as the Malaysian defence stood tall.

The host mounted a challenge three minute after the start of the third quarter but Tengku Ahmad Tengku Tajuddin’s deflection off a pass from team captain Sukri Mutalib went off the mark. Another tale of near misses from the Malaysians as India took control for a brief moment.

The last 10 minutes of the third quarter belonged to the host as the Malaysian Tigers went on to earn two more penalty corners but Shahril Saabah and Faizal Saari could not find the space to beat Indian goalkeeper Akash Chikte.

In a most bizarre decision, the Indians returned in the fourth quarter without Akash and opted to play with a kicking back instead. However, after Mandeep Singh was shown the green card minutes into the quarter, India was reduced to 10-men on the field and Akash was brought on again. This situation did not help the Indians at all as they struggled to put the pieces together.

With India’s defence in disarray, Malaysia mounted another strong challenge and it took a classic move from a penalty corner in the 51st minute from Shahril Saabah to pun the Tigers ahead.

The 3,000 fans that stayed away after Malaysia’s defeats in the last two matches, celebrated. It was Malaysia’s first win and that too against Asian Games gold medallist and World No 6 who had bad game today.

WHAT THE COACHES SAID

Stephen van Huizen (Malaysia head coach)

It was a game of playing for our pride at home after losing three games. We did not plan to disappoint our neighbours India. If Great Britain deserves to go in the final than there’s nothing we can do about it.

We expected India to come at full force against us as they needed two goals to move in the final. We played better against Great Britain and New Zealand. For me this win came against the odds. In any other given day if India had taken its chances well I am sure they will win.

Malaysia had several chances and we made good use of one to score the goal. We went through videos of India’s matches and we knew they have good forwards and were fast so we came out with a plan to stop India’s movement.

Roelant Oltmans (India Head Coach)

I am never disappointed with results. But today I am very disappointed with the performance of the team. There are too many unforced errors.

We did not take our chances. We took unnecessary risk.   The moment we failed to get the goals than it is going to be impossible to win. I am also disappointed with our execution rate in penalty corners.

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