Jakarta: Amid heart stopping tension, India’s hopes of making it to the Asian Games final went up in smoke on the blue turf of GBK Hockey Stadium when they were stunned 6-7 by Malaysia in sudden death after the match remained tied 2-2 at the end of the regulation time, here on Thursday.
It was almost a repeat of 2010 Guangzhou Asiad semi-final when Malaysia had beaten India in extra-time after being held 3-3 in the regular period.
Interestingly, the player who brought Malaysia back into the game this evening after they trailed 1-2 till 59th minute, was same Abdul Rahim Muhammed Razi, who had scored the winner in Guangzhou.
The defeat not only wrecked coach Harendra Singh’s dream of creating a legacy of winning back-to-back Asian Games golds, but also delayed India’s chances of qualifying for 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Later in the evening, unheralded Japan defeated eight-time champions Pakistan 1-0 to set up Gold medal match against Malaysia thus setting up a mouth-watering bronze medal play-off between sub-continental arch-rivals India and Pakistan.
The record 76 goals India had scored in the five league matches in which skipper and goalkeeper Sreejesh was not tested at all, turned out to be their undoing.
When crunch came in the shootout, Srejeesh was found wanting and the Malaysian goal keeper S Kumar stood with his brilliant keeping.
The Indians were tested only by Koreans, whom they managed to beat 5-3 but those warning signals were ignored. The defending champions were drunk on erasing their old record against novices and paid heavy price for it.
In the shootout, Malaysian goalkeeper Subramaniam was their hero, while Sreejesh turned out to be a villain.
It was the match that Harendra Singh and Sreejesh will not like to forget easily and rest of the members will have nightmares thinking of this encounter.
Indians played poorly and were lucky to have been levelled 2-2 at the end of regulation period as Malaysia missed some very easy chances. Their first penalty corner conversion was disallowed and then in the 55th minute Ramzi’s penalty corner flick hit the bar
In between, Faizal Saari muffed some easy chances.
India started on attacking note forcing a penalty corner in the very first minute, which Rupinder muffed and then in next two minutes Mandeep and Manpreet made good attempts but they missed the target.
The Malaysian countered and that fetched them their first penalty corner which Razi Rahim converted, but the Indian protested saying ball had hit the foot of a Malaysian forward and asked for referral.
The Indians heaved a sigh of relief as their referral was accepted.
Penalty corner conversion
India’s weakness in the penalty corner conversion also played a crucial role in their defeat. They earned eight and could convert only one while Malaysia though converted only one of the seven they earned, but that conversion turned out to be decisive.
After a goalless first half, Indian surged ahead in the 33rd minute through Harmanpreet, who scored off the sixth penalty corner.
The lead lasted six minutes as Malaysia drew parity through Faizal Saari.
India again took the lead in the 40th minute through Dilpreet Singh but Malaysia made furious counter attacks and managed the equaliser just a minute before the final hooter as Ramzi converted a penalty corner.
In the shoot-out, it was anyone’s game and Malaysia handled the nerves better to make their second Asiad final.
India were left stunned after SV Sunil missed his attempt in the sudden death. Only Akashdeep and Harmanpreet scored in the first five shots of the shooter, while Manpreet Singh, Dilpreet Singh and Sunil faltered.
Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh was lucky as the Malaysians put the ball out thrice, while Muhammad Ashari and Fitri Saari scored. Tengku Ahmad, Faizal Saari and Muhammad Azuan missed the target for Malaysia.
In sudden death, Malaysia’s all five attempts were successful while India scored the first four before Sunil cracked under pressure.