Jakarta: Defending champions India’s perennial problem of conceding penalty corners at the death came to fore and they suffered a shock defeated at the hands of Malaysia 7-6 in a shoot-out after the scores were tied 2-2.
Razie Muhammad Rahim gave Malaysia the lifeline by drawing level through a penalty corner with just a minute and 41 seconds remaining.
And when you force a contest into the tie-break, then even the best of teams can succumb to the pressure. In regulation time, India opened their account through Harmanpreet Singh at the beginning of the third quarter. The lead didn’t last long as five minutes later, Faizal Saari drew level with a brilliant strike off a counter. India immediately bounced back from that set back with Varun Kumar again putting them in the driving seat, scoring off a penalty corner before Rahim levelled.
Rahim’s hit split the defence and going went through the legs of a rooted India skipper and goalkeeper PR Srejeesh.
In the shoot-out, Malaysia’s Fitri Mohd Saari, Firhan Muhammad Ashari scored two goals each, while Azuan Muhamad Meor, Faizal Saari and Ahmad Tengku Tajuddin scored one apiece. For India, Akashdeep Singh converted a brace, whereas Harmanpreet Singh, Manpreet Singh and Dilpreet Singh shared three goals between them. SV Sunil’s missed the decisive shot and the Malaysian camp erupted with joy.
Malaysia’s veteran goalkeeper S Kumar was simply exceptional.
“I think we should give credit to the Malaysian team to the way they fought in the match. We had way too many unforced errors and we paid the price from the start. We tried to show our Indian skill and that is where we lot the momentum,” said a dejected-looking India coach Harinder Singh.
“We knew they were only looking to score on the counter. We were just falling back and when they are in the circle then we have panicked. We should have done the tackling outside the circle itself. Unforced error is unpardonable because it is like a suicide because that’s a transition time and that is when we need to attack. We tried to hold today and played the parallel pass and paid the prize,” added Singh, whose team had displayed dominant performances at the Asiad by comprehensively beating Hong Kong (26-0), Indonesia (17-0), Japan (8-0) and Sri Lanka (20-0) and Korea (5-3) on their way to the semi-final.
“The future road is bumpy because it won’t be easy to get the boarding card for the Olympics. We were determined to get it here but paid the price for the silly mistakes. It is not an individual setback for me as a coach but I would say it is a setback for Indian hockey.”
Meanwhile, Indian women’s team having beaten three-times champion China 1-0 through a goal from Gurjeet Kaur in the semis and will take on three-time Asian Games runners-up Japan in the final.
“We need to remember the remaining two quarters of the match, which we played against China, and that style of playing would be helpful to us in executing our plans against Japan,” said India’s Dutch coach Sjoerd Marijne adding that his team will have their task cut out against Japan.
“It’s not going to be an easy match as they too are a potential side. They are growing and being the host of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 they would like to finish on top in the Asian Games. But we need to play our best hockey tomorrow to stop them from winning,” he said.