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India loses again

By S. Thyagarajan

India's Len Aiyappa (left) attempts to stop Lee Jung Seon of South Korea. — AFP

Germany 4 Spain 4

Pakistan 1 Malaysia 1

Korea 3 India 2

KUALA LUMPUR, JAN. 14. On a day of high drama and excitement with the home team, Malaysia, ending Pakistan' victory sequence, and Germany staging a remarkable recovery to share honours with Spain, India was hovering in the grey zone of not even finding a spot in the placing matches in the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament here tonight. Only the top six combat for the rankings from the seven in the fray.

As though the woes afflicting the team were not enough, India had to play without Dhanraj Pillay and Baljit Singh Dhillon, who are on the injured list. Practically fielding the inexperienced junior squad under Ignace Tirkey, India made a valiant attempt to make a match of it against the swift moving Koreans. But after glowing briefly the Indians capitulated to the Asian Games champion.

For a while the defence held on tenaciously, with young goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza effecting a few saves. India looked well set at least for a brief period thanks to the enterprise of Vikram Pillay in the field and enthusiasm displayed in the attack by Sandeep Michael and Subodh Khandekar.

After surviving a scare when a hit by Lee Jung Seon hit the post and bounced back, India struck at the other end from an impeccable penalty corner by Len Aiyappa.

Reacting to this reverse, the Koreans accelerated pushing the Indian defence to the ropes. Lee Jung Seon and Song Seung Tae stretched the defence forcing a series of penalty corners. However, the equaliser by Yoon Young Sik from a free hit deflection caused a bit of confusion forcing the Spanish umpire, Juan Manuel, to seek confirmation from his colleague, Stefan Brenner of Germany.

On level terms, the Koreans intensified their moves and five minutes before the breather slotted in the lead from a penalty corner hit by Yew Woon Koon, who added one more immediately after the breather from another penalty corner.

India managed to smother the pressure quite successfully and even forced a penalty corner but Aiyappa's grounder was neatly intercepted by Ji Seong Hwan. But a quick sally involving Sandeep Michael and Vikram Pillay ended with a stick check on the latter. Arjun Halappa converted the resultant penalty stroke.

Inept display by Pakistan

Pakistan allowed Malaysia to besmirch its record. There were even moments when a defeat lokked imminent. If Chua Boon Huat had been a bit more accurate in the two open chances he had in the second half, the outcome would have dented Pakistan's prestige.

Pakistan had to recover from a deficit after Kuhen Shanmuganathan slammed in a penalty corner early in the second half. Pakistan equalised through Sohail Abbas.

In the last quarter Pakistan showed some semblance of exerting pressure. A penalty corner with only 47 seconds left on the clock heightened the excitement but goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin came in the way of a none-too-powerful drag flick by Sohail Abbas.

With 13 points from six matches and a match remaining against Australia tomorrow, Pakistan is assured of a berth in Sunday's final.

From the shadow of a disaster, World Champion Germany clawed back to share points with Spain. Spain was leading 4-1 at half-time but conceded three in the second half, the last two surfacing when only five minutes remained.

Santi Freixa fetched Spain the lead, side-stepping the defence and leaving the goalkeeper, Clemens Arnold, beaten by the simplest of shots. Christoph Eimer produced the equaliser to keep the interest alive, but three goals, two by Santi Freixa and one by Pol Amat, took the wind out of Germany's sails.

But the Germans cameback with a more organised play with substitute goalkeeper Christian Schulte coming in.

Midway through Germany got the first penalty corner that Florian Kunz slotted in in his inimitable style. He scored again in a similar fashion four minutes later and the ever reliable Bjorn Michel finished the day with a wristy flick a minute before the hooter.

Germany has 10 points and Spain five with a match remaining for both.

Thursday's match: Australia v Pakistan (3-35 p.m. IST).

Friday's matches: Spain v India (1-35 p.m.); Germany v Australia (3-35 p.m.); Malaysia v Korea (5-35 p.m.).

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