Dhaka: India thrashed Malaysia 6-2 in a second round clash to take a big step towards qualification for the final of the Asia Cup hockey championship in Dhaka on Thursday.
Akashdeep Singh (15th minute), Harmanpreet Singh (19th), SK Uthappa (24th), Gurjant Singh (33rd), SV Sunil (40th) and Sardar Singh (60th) scored the goals for a ruthless India.
India were already 5-0 up when Razie Rahim and Ramadan Rosli struck for Malaysia, who in their previous match had stunned Pakistan 3-2.
With this win, India now have four points from two matches, while second-placed Malaysia have three points.
South Korea, who drew 1-1 with Pakistan earlier in the day, hold the third spot.
Top two teams will qualify for the final, while the teams finishing third and fourth will vie for the bronze medal.
On Saturday, India will meet Pakistan needing at least a draw to seal their place in the final on 22 October.
Malaysia will face South Korea on Friday also searching for a point to reach the final.
But the Malaysians need to put up a better performance that they did against India.
Having won all their matches thus far in the tournament, Malaysia raced out of the blocks at a frenetic pace, attacking India constantly.
They made two strong circle entries at the start of the game but an alert Indian defence kept them out of scoring.
India's first breakthrough came in the 14th minute when Manpreet assisted Akashdeep inside the circle with a fiercely-struck long pass. The Indian forward was impeccable in his attempt to improvise the pass to beat the Malaysian goalkeeper Kumar Subramiam to take a 1-0 lead in the first quarter.
The second quarter saw Indian goalkeeper Suraj Karkera make brilliant saves that had the Dhaka audience in raptures. His first big save came only two minutes into the second quarter when Malaysia won a penalty corner. Karkera was resolute to pad it away.
Later in the 23rd minute, another penalty corner was averted when Karkera saved a fiercely struck drag-flick from Rahim to keep Malaysia from converting.
Earlier, Harmanpreet Singh was at his best when he found the centre of the goal to take India's lead to 2-0 in the 19th minute. A good assist by Sunil saw Uthappa score India's third goal in the 24th minute.
Post the 10-minute half-time break, India scored two more goals to stamp their supremacy over Malaysia. It was Gurjant in the 33rd minute followed by a splendid goal by Sunil brilliantly assisted by Gurjant who worked in tandem to score India's fifth goal.
A trademark reverse hit by Gurjant from the left flank to Sunil, who made a diving attempt to push the ball into the post, ensured the local crowds were thoroughly entertained. This goal by Sunil was also adjudged as the goal of the match.
The final quarter saw India make a few defensive errors that saw them concede penalty corners. With 10 minutes to the final hooter, Malaysia's Rahim utilised the chance to put one past a diving Akash Chikte in the 50th minute.
Malaysia won another penalty corner in the 54th minute but Chikte was outstanding in his save.
Almost immediately, Malaysia won another set-piece but an alert Chikte averted a goal again. Malaysia won two back-to-back penalty corners in the 58th minute but couldn't make the chance count.
Though their second goal came through in the 59th minute via Rosli, India extended their lead in the 60th minute when veteran Sardar employed a reverse-hand strike.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Oct 19, 2017 22:43:23 IST