India wins a close match again

Australia 5 <51> Malaysia 1

India 4 <51> South Africa 3

SYDNEY, APRIL 24. The Aussies lacked their usual effervescence in hammering Malaysia for the second time as the final set of matches in the league part of the four-nation hockey challenge ended this afternoon at the Olympic Park.

At the end of the day, the same set of matches will feature Sunday's schedule, with Australia taking on Malaysia for the trophy and India meeting South Africa for the third and fourth places.

Australia topped the table with seven points, followed by Malaysia with six, India four and South Africa nil.

India won again a close match — the first meeting at Canberra was 6-4 — against South Africa, conceding a goal in the final minute. There was nothing to sally into a veneer of eloquence about the win that India achieved today. Knowing that the outcome had no impact on tomorrow's line-up, coach Rajinder Singh, gave a chance to all the reserve players. Goal-keeper Bharat Chettri had a full match. However, the approach from both sides was mediocre.

It was South Africa that surged into the lead when Greg Nicol tapped in a cross from Wayne Danne midway in the first half. Reserve goal-keeper, Bharat Chettri was stunned by the quickness of the finish by the South African veteran. But midway through India achieved parity through Deepak Thakur, whose deflection off a free hit left goal-keeper Staniforth flat-footed.

Before half-time Gagan Ajit Singh produced a stunner of a shot from a centre by Sunil Yadav to give India a 2-1 lead at the break.

South Africa bounced back into the match midway in the second half, Greg Nicol striking again. At this period, the Indians lost control of the proceedings. Inderjit Kumar and Deepak Thakur received yellow card suspensions for infringements that were clearly unwarranted. Inderjit tapped the ball back after the umpire had blown the whistle for an infringement. Deepak Thakur made a deliberate foot stop inside the 25-yard line.

However, close on time, India surged ahead from a lovely goal by Arjun Halappa who profited from a clever forward pass by Gagan Ajit Singh. Minutes later, Inderjit Kumar swept the ball in for his first goal.

When it looked as though India was coasting to a comfortable win came the third South African goal from Reeece Basson.

Far from exciting, Australia's performance against Malaysia was only adequate enough to ensure a place in the final. Ironically, it will be Malaysia again.

Haunted by the mind boggling 0-9 reverse at Canberra, the Malaysians perforce had to be circumspect. The emphasis naturally was on defending the citadel, but the Aussie attack carried far too much punch for the Malaysians to resist. An early goal from a move initiated by Andrew Smith ended with Adam Commens finding the target, notwithstanding a valiant attempt by goal-keeper Jamaluddin.

Midway through a penalty corner shot by Andrew Smith enlarged the lead, and not long after came the third when Adam Commens flicked the ball in after goal-keeper Jamaluddin padded a shot by Travis Brooks. In the second half Jaime Dwyer and Micheal Boyce scored one each.

At that point, it looked as though the Malaysians were in for another drubbing. But the team recovered to score, Radzin making the best of a cross from Boon Huat, easily the most hard-working Malaysian forward this afternoon. The coach Yahya Atan brought in goal-keeper Kumar Subramaniam as a replacement for Jamalauddin and this move proved good. The Aussies were restricted to the 5-1 score.

Sunday's matches: (3-4 places): India vs. South Africa (9.30 a.m.); Final: Australia vs. Malaysia (11.30 a.m.).

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