The revival story of the young Indian men’s hockey team at the 11th Asia Cup was very much in tact as they clawed their way back from conceding two first half goals to scramble out a fighting 3-3 draw against Malaysia – a result that puts them on course for a place in the final. Razie Rahim’s sizzling run with shorties continued as he provided a two-goal cushion to Malaysia before India launched a robust riposte in the second half with Vishnukant Singh scoring off a penalty corner rebound after Abhishek Lakra’s drag-flick was parried away by the Malaysian goalkeeper.
However, India left it far too late to orchestrate their comeback story – vastly experienced SV Sunil playing in his fourth Asia Cup, scored a fine goal from an acute angle after he was brilliantly set up by Pawan Rajhar, who has been one of the finds of the tournament. It was an important goal from Sunil from whom the Indian forwardline expects a lot given this is a team replete with youngsters, but it cannot be denied that the likes of Pawan Rajbhar, Uttam Singh and Maninder Singh have made it job less stressful by coming into their own.
From being down 0-2 in the first half, India pulled ahead for the first time in the match when Nilam Sanjeep Xess profited from a short corner with six minutes remaining for the final hooter. Just when it appeared India would come home with a fighting win after being pushed to the wall, Razie Rahim came to the Malaysian rescue, notching his third hat-trick of the Asia Cup – his 12th goal of the tournament – emerging as the top goal-scorer.
With South Korea pipping Japan 3-1 and enjoying a better goal average, India would have to beat the Korean in the final Super 4S tie to reach the final. A draw or loss would not be comforting for India as Malaysia can also be a spoiler if they beat Japan in their concluding Super 4s tie.