India 3 Malaysia 0
Coach Harendra Singh's pep talk did help as India cut through the Malaysian defence to post a morale-boosting 3-0 win here at the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament.
After the depressing 2-2 draw with lowly Egypt, India had their task cut out and only a win against the hosts would have kept their hopes of reaching the finals alive.
Malaysia, on the other hand, was on a roll. They beat Egypt and also Pakistan raising the hopes of the hockey community that a victory against India was a formality.
India had other ideas. They broke ranks to score through a penalty corner in the 19th minute which Arjun Halappa converted. Sandeep Singh swung into action in the 31st minute when a penalty corner push crashed into the netting. At the break, India led 2-0. Malaysia needed answers fast in the second half.
To India’s credit, the defence, that had come in for a fair amount of criticism, played well. They managed the zones well and their anticipation was top class as the Malaysian forwards dangerous on the counter-attack couldn’t really beat Dilip Tirkey and his men.
India also dominated the midfield and could have improved the tally of three goals if a few chances wouldn’t have been wasted.
Gurvinder Singh Chandi, however, put the issue beyond doubt when he scored in the 62nd minute. Malaysia did try and raise the tempo but the drooping shoulders told another story.
India now play New Zealand in their next match on Thursday and a win could take them to the final with a match against Pakistan in hand