Defending champions India moved a step closer towards retaining its title in Hero Asia Cup Hockey for men by playing a 3-3 draw against Malaysia at Jakarta on Sunday.
Trailing 0-2 at the interval, India came back strongly in the second half to draw level and forge ahead before settling down for an exciting draw. With this drawn game India has taken its points tally to 4, same as Korea. Both India and Korea have an identical a win and a draw record in the Super 4s till now. Both the teams will now meet on May 31 in the final round of the Super 4s.
In another game, Korea defeated Asian Games gold medallist Japan 2-1 to keep the doors open for the gold medal round. Japan has lost both of its games in Super 4s and thus look out of contention for a place in the final. Japan plays Malaysia in its last game of the super league.
India kept its title hopes alive after playing out a thrilling 3-3 draw against Malaysia. Despite trailing early on, India fought valiantly in the match with Vishnukant Singh (32′) reducing the deficit in the third quarter. SV Sunil (53′) and Nilam Sanjeep Xess (55′) scored a goal each in the final quarter to bring India back in the contest. Razie Rahim (12′, 21′, 56′) starred for Malaysia, scoring a hat-trick in the match.
The match started with India pressing deep inside Malaysia’s circle with Karthi Selvam and Pawan Rajbhar combining to put pressure on the opposition’s defence. India goalkeeper Suraj Karkera made two back-to-back saves after he denied Muhammad Hassan a goalscoring opportunity, and then saving the Penalty Corner. Malaysia won another penalty corner with three minutes to go in the first quarter, and Razie Rahim converted the opportunity to give his team a 1-0 lead.
Trailing by a goal, India showcased an urgency in attack to quickly get back on level terms at the start of the second quarter. SV Sunil and Maninder Singh combined to create a chance from the right flank, but the Malaysian defence averted the danger. Razie Rahim doubled Malaysia’s lead from another penalty corner in the 21st minute. Minutes later, Faizal Saari struck twice on target, but was denied by the Indian defence. India kept Malaysia at bay for the remainder of the second quarter and the match went to halftime with Malaysia leading by two goals.
India earned an early penalty corner in the second half and Vishnukant Singh made the most of the opportunity, scoring a goal from a rebound. Minutes later, Karthi Selvam sent an excellent cross inside the circle, but it just went wide off the man. India earned another penalty corner with six minutes to go in the third quarter, but were unable to get the equaliser. Goalkeeper Pankaj Rajak made a stunning save to deny Malaysia the opportunity to extend its lead as the third quarter came to a close.
Early on in the final quarter, Pawan Rajbhar showcased individual brilliance to break through Malaysia’s midfield and he passed the ball to SV Sunil inside the circle. The veteran converted the goal from an acute angle as India levelled the score to 2-2. Minutes later, Nilam Sanjeep Xess scored from a penalty corner as India took a 3-2 lead in the match. But India conceded another penalty corner a minute later, and Razie Rahim made the most of the opportunity to level the score line once again.
India are currently placed in the second position in the Super 4s Pool table of Hero Asia Cup 2022 with 4 points, after having beaten Japan 2-1 in their first Super 4s game on Saturday. India will play their next game of the Super 4s against Korea on Tuesday.