Wake-up call before D-Day
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Already through to the final, defending champions India suffered a shock 3-5 defeat at the hands of Malaysia in their last and inconsequential league match of the Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament on Wednesday.
India will take on arch-rivals Pakistan in the summit clash on Thursday after the latter defeated Japan 5-2 in another round-robin league match. India had defeated Pakistan 4-2 via penalty shootout in the inaugural edition in Ordos, China last year after the two teams had been locked goalless in regulation time.
Malaysia needed to beat India with a six plus goal margin to qualify for the final and they were cruising along with 4-0 lead in the 38th minute. But, India doused the Malaysian fire late in the game with three goals, denying them a big-margin victory required to make it to the final. Malaysia took the lead after missing out two penalty corners earlier. Following the abortive second penalty corner, the Malaysians made use of a long corner to go up (1-0).
Within a minute, Abdullah Shahrun Nabil enlarged the lead. Forward Fitri stunned Indian goalie PR Sreejesh with a reverse hit to enhance the lead to three nil in the 27th minute.
India earned their first penalty corner in the 32nd minute, but vice-captain V R Raghunath could not make any difference to the scoreboard. India also wasted two more penalty corners in the first half. Fitri again struck in the 27th minute (3-0), giving Malaysia much hope at lemon time.
Within three minutes after change of sides, Faizal Saari made it 4-0 for Malaysia when he ran down from the right flank, beat Raghunath before finding the target.
India woke up late with Birendra Lakra striking first in the 47th minute. He latched on to a long corner and had all time in the world to whack the ball past Malaysian goalie (4-1). Newcomer Pradhan Sommana set up SV Sunil to reduce the margin. He sent a cross from the left flank which Sunil connected to make it 4-2 in the 62nd minute.
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