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India, Malaysia share spoils

Anand Philar | January 11, 2004 18:21 IST

India and Malaysia shared spoils and picked up a point apiece from a 2-2 draw in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament at the National Stadium at Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

In one of the better matches of the tournament so far, both sides played with passion before settling for a draw. Len Aiyappa (21st minute) and Arjun Halappa (62nd) scored for India and the Malaysians replied through Gobinathan Krishnamurthy (32nd) and Ismail Abu (64th).

There was little to separate the two teams in terms of quality and the sizeable crowd was treated to some fast, attacking and exciting hockey. The draw, perhaps, was only fair to the teams as neither deserved to lose.

India picked up their first point after two defeats, while Malaysia took their tally to two points with two draws and a loss.

In the first-half, the teams took turns to dominate with the Malaysians holding sway in the early and final moments of the session and the Indians looking the better side in the remainder part.

The Indians were under pressure at the start as the hosts employed the scoop to overrun the rival midfield. However, their attacks tended to be predictable and made the task of the Indian defence that much easier.

On their part, the Indian attacks were incisive despite some needless individual play by a couple of their forwards, notably Baljeet Singh Dhillon. However, they had two good openings, first in the 12th minute when Vikram Pillay, after a combined move with Dhanraj Pillay, breached the Malaysian defence down the middle, but could not beat the goalkeeper.

Five minutes later, Kuhan Shanmuganathan foiled Len Aiyappa's penalty corner attempt with a goal-line save before the Indian managed to find the board with his next try in the 21st minute.

The goal pumped up the Malaysians and they applied tremendous pressure on the Indian deep defence. Past the 27th minute, the home team wasted two good chances as Tajol Roslie hit into the goalkeeper and moments later, Ismail Abu slammed the ball over the crosspiece from close range.

Despite the two lapses, the Malaysians continued to attack and Gobinathan scored from the second penalty corner in the 32nd minute to restore parity at 1-1.

The pace picked up noticeably in the second-half that witnessed exciting end-to-end play with a lot of goalmouth action. Both the teams wasted quite a few chances as the rival goalkeepers Kamaldeep Singh (India) and Kumar Subramaniam (Malaysia) were kept busy. The huge crowd too got into the act and the atmosphere indeed was quite electric.

For a brief period, the two most experienced Indian players, Dhanraj Pillay and Dhillon left the ground, the former being substituted and the latter with an injury to the nose following a fall at the end of a solo run. Ironically, thereafter the Indian forwardline seem to function better.

In the Indian midfield, Vikram Pillay caught the eye by his aggressive play if not ball distribution as he frequently joined the attacks, lending it considerable punch. But like the Malaysians, the Indian forwards were error-prone inside the circle.

Eventually, the Indians managed to knock one in after many attempts as Halappa deflected a hard centre from the right by Prabhdeep Singh who was set up by Dhillon, back in action with a face mask, in the 62nd minute (2-1).

However, the Malaysians equalised two minutes later following a right wing move. Azlan Misron took a hit that came off the upright and Abu was on hand to slam home the rebound in the 64th minute (2-2).

India are scheduled to meet Australia in their fourth match of the tournament on Tuesday.

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