S. Thyagarajan

Ipoh: India capitulated to Malaysia in the Azlan Shah hockey tournament on Wednesday. The 2-5 defeat was one of the worst reverses for India.

It was also India's first defeat in five encounters after riding the crest of success in the earlier matches.

Palpably indifferent from the start, the team steadily invited stress and paid dearly when the Malaysians struck a sparkling phase, scoring three goals in 10 minutes after the 1-0 half-time lead.

Spectacular goals

The goals that Malaysia scored early in the second half were classic and spectacular by any reckoning. Among them, the best effort came from Tajuddin, who waltzed down the line and capped a solo run with a splendid backhander leaving Chettri bemused. Even the next goal by Rahim Mohammad Amin was a superb effort from the top of the circle with no defender present in the area.

India could have settled down if only trouble had not emerged in the shape of Amit Prabhakar.

For no apparent reason, he rushed towards Fassil Saari and brought him down in a wild tackle on the fringe of the zone-line. Umpire Stephen Rogers of Australia signalled a penalty corner which Amin converted with relish. Earlier, Chettri had brought off two fine saves.

This reverse triggered a disaster. The Indians simply could not handle the vibrancy of the Malay attacks and surrendered the initiative.

All their efforts to regroup failed and desperate moves had no desired effect on the rival defenders.

India, however, did manage to generate seven penalty corners but lacked a striker. Rupinder attempted direct hits but they lacked variety to trouble a goalkeeper like the seasoned Kumar Subramaniam.

India struck midway through when Danish Mujtaba tapped in a rebound in a penalty corner melee, but the joy proved evanescent as Malaysia struck again from a scorching shot by Rahim Amin.

And in the closing stages, Rizal Nasir slipped in the fifth. Ravipal Singh scored when two minutes remained but by that time the match was sealed.

India needs an outright win over Egypt on Saturday to have a tilt at the final spot.

Three seconds from the clock Pakistan's Zubair Muhammad flunked a sitter against Australia. The eventual result, a 5-5 draw, underlines the commendable sense of fortitude of the Pakistan team, which was trailing 1-4 shortly after resumption, to share points. It was an absorbing duel that mirrored Pakistan's competence to stage a comeback from an embarrassing situation in the match. Australia's Cirello had the humiliation of getting a yellow card.

Coach Paul Gaudoin termed the Aussie show as “immature”, while Kwaja Junaid, the Pakistan manager viewed the contest as “the match of the tournament that saw 10 goals coming in.”

Australia has seven points from four matches, while Pakistan has five from five matches.

The results: Australia 5 (Timothy Bates, Grant Schubert 2, Christopher Cirello 2) drew with Pakistan 5 (Rizwan Muhammad, Irfan Muhammad, Imran Muhammad 2, Umar Butta).

China 5 (Liu Yixien, Cui Yongin, Na Yubo, Sun Long, Luo Fangming) bt Egypt 1 (Hoosein Gobran).

Malaysia 5 (Rahim Mohammad Amin 2, Tajuddin, Razie Muhammad, Rizal Azreen Nasir) bt India 2 (Danish Mujtaba, Ravipal Singh).

Thursday's matches (all times in IST): Pakistan vs. Egypt (1.35 p.m.), Australia vs. Korea (3.35 p.m.); Malaysia vs. China (5.35 p.m.) .

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