Ipoh, Malaysia, 15 April 2016: India stamped their class and authority over the hosts Malaysia, to cap an emphatic 6-1 victory and qualify for the Final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
Once the game had begun, virtually with the first touch of the ball, India pressed their opponents into submission, paying no heed to the loud capacity crowd that had gathered to cheer the home team. The pressure worked. Malaysia were trailing after just three minutes.
A swiftly passed out counter, and a brilliant one-two between SV Sunil and Manpreet Singh tore the Malaysian defence to shreds at the edge of the circle. Sunil crossed the return ball for Nikkin Thimmaiah to tap in a simple opener, and record his second goal of the tournament. Four minutes later, there was one more. Another swift counter, another neat passing sequence, this time between Harjeet Singh and Talwinder Singh, before Harjeet reverse hit the ball into the goal to double the lead.
Malaysia were silenced by an Indian team playing with greater purpose, speed and skill than they had perhaps displayed in the entire tournament. With two minutes to go in the first quarter, India’s first PC saw Harmanpreet Singh’s effort come off the post.
Despite a break in period, India did not let up in the second quarter. A Malaysian PC went wide, before Sunil won one for India with a brilliant solo run, drawing a foul from the defender at the edge of the circle. From the PC, Danish improvised after an initial error to drive the ball in, where SK Uthappa’s deflection came off the goalkeeper, presenting Ramandeep with a great chance to score his first goal of the tournament.
Danish added another one, from another PC in the 27th minute. Harmanpreet was unfortunate to see his flick again come off the woodwork. Danish trapped the rebound cleanly and lashed in India’s fourth. India went into half time with one foot in the Final.
Malaysia came out stronger in the second half, shoring up their defence, and relying on counter attacks to penetrate the Indian defence. India moved the ball back and forth, switching flanks to rising cheers in the stands, with Sardar Singh, orchestrating the play from the centre, laying a pass to Harmanpret Singh on the right. Harmanpreet’s powerful drive into the box found Ramandeep unmarked at the back post for a simple tap in. Without a goal in four games in the tournament, he now had two in the space of 14 minutes.
Shahril Saabah pulled one back for the hosts in the 46th minute, but by then it was too little too late. India got another goal though to ensure the difference stayed the same. Talwinder Singh netted one in the 50th minute to cap off a brilliant 6-1 victory to take Team India to the Final.
India take on Australia in the final at 18:15 pm IST on Saturday, 16 April.
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