The Hague, June 7 :
Goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh put on another superb show as India managed a 3-2 victory over Malaysia in their Pool A FIH Hockey World Cup encounter at the Greenfields Stadium here Saturday.
Though India dominated most of the proceedings, Malaysia did well to come back in the match in the last 10 minutes but the 1975 champions managed to hold onto their lead, thanks to some valiant saves by Sreejesh to register their first win in the tournament.
While it was Malaysia’s fourth consecutive loss, the win for India came after a draw and two consecutive losses.
Jasjit Singh Kular (15th) opened the scoring for India while Akashdeep Singh (49th, 51st) got a brace. For Malaysia, Razle Adbul Rahim (46th) and Marhan Jalil (61st) were the scorers.
With nine minutes left, Malaysia stepped up the attack and put the pressure on the Indian defence. Sreejesh was again superb as he made an array of fantastic saves allowing India to maintain the lead and register a much needed win.
The result takes India’s tally to four points, moving them up to fourth place in the standings. Malaysia sit at the bottom of the pool and remain without a point.
India, ranked 8th in FIH rankings, dominated the first half of the Asian derby match from start to finish, pressing their 13th ranked opponents deep into their own territory for long periods. They created number of decent scoring opportunities before the opening goal arrived in the 14th minute. Kular was the scorer, rifling the ball against the backboard following a Indian penalty corner that didn’t go to plan but certainly proved to be effective.
The Malaysian players looked to be a step slower than an India team that enjoyed long periods of possession and could easily have been three or four goals up were it not for some top class goal-keeping from Kumar Subramiam.
It was not the first time in this tournament that Kumar has displayed his extraordinary abilities, although the reflex save he produced following a dazzling run and shot from India captain Sardar Singh was up there with his best blocks of the tournament.
Kumar made another fine block to deny a rocket of a penalty corner drag flick from V.R. Raghunath early in the second period moments before S.V. Sunil broke free of his marker and smashed a shot just wide of the left post.
Kumar’s brilliance ensured that Malaysia stayed within touching distance of their opponents, and his team almost grabbed an unlikely equaliser against the run of play when Tengku Ahmad saw his backhand effort turned around the post by Indian keeper Sreejesh. It proved to be an key moment for the Malaysians, who suddenly realised that were capable of competing with their higher-ranked opponents.
The equalising goal arrived from a penalty corner in the 46th minute, with Razie Abdul Rahim’s powerful drag-flick finding its way into the Indian goal via a defenders’ stick.
However, India reasserted their authority on the match with two terrific field goals from Akashdeep Singh. Both efforts were truly world class, with a brilliant angled deflection being followed by a glorious chip and volley after some superb build-up play from the ever-impressive Sardar.
The final ten minutes were played at a blistering pace, as the action breathlessly shifted from one end to the other. Malaysia’s Marhan Jalil made things interesting with an open play strike in the 61st minute, although India had a number of great chances to kill the game ahead of the sound of the full-time hooter.
Sardar Singh was delighted with his team’s first win.
“The guys are doing a really wonderful job because match by match we are really improving and playing consistent hockey. We are happy to win our first game,” he said.