India began their quest for a maiden medal in the Commonwealth Games by sharing two goals with Malaysia in the men's preliminary league Group B opening match in Melbourne on Friday.
Malaysia went into the lead in the 21st minute with the efforts of Rahim Muhammad Amin but Sandeep Singh equalised it in the 43rd minute with a superb penalty-corner conversion.
India dished out a mixture of European and Indian styles of play and concentrated more on long passes, looking to enter the circle. But this did not work out against the Malaysian defenders, who showed their skills in great measure.
In fact, the Malaysians settled down to defensive tactics during the second half in the hunt of some vital points.
Indian forward Deepak thakur, though did not find his usual exuberant form, was totally manned and rarely got out of the shackles and the forward line's movement was also restricted.
Bharat Chettri showed his impatience to wield the stick after the ball passed him from a rival attacker, which warranted umpire Simon Taylor of New Zealand to point to the dreaded spot. Amin beat Chettri to give Malaysia the vital lead.
Chettri showed resilience, coming up with couple of saves, but paid the penalty for his technical ignorance in wielding the stick at the zero angle when Tengu Ahmad was trying to retrieve the ball. This culminated into a 'stroke' and Rahim scooped in.
India earned its first penalty corner in the 31st minute and Sandeep Singh's drag flick was well saved by Ibrahim Mohd Nasihin.
In the first 25 minutes of second half, Indian dominance put Malaysia under totally pressure.
A minute after Prabodh Tirkey put Tejbir Singh on the left and the latter's try was saved, Rajpal's superb effort from about 20 yards on the right hit the cross piece to the chagrin of Indian supporters and it developed into a penalty-corner for India, their second in the match. Sandeep Singh sounded the board.
Then on, the Malaysians adopted defensive methods while India suffered as several umpiring decisions went against them.
Sandeep Singh received a yellow card for five minutes suspension by Simon Taylor for a tackle and Prabodh, a green card in the match.
Indian defense and midfielders showed greater cohesion, though they indulged in miss or wrong passes but the Malaysians are to be credited for their total hockey.
Their centre forward Tengu Ahmad was especially very agile and appeared dangerous whenever he ventured into the 25 yard line.
The Malaysians were most often able to unsettle their Indian rivals with their perfect interceptions and were also able to threat frequently for a goal.
India plays Pakistan on Saturday while Malaysia will take on Trinidad and Tobago.
Easy for Australia
Defending champions Australia and runners-up England opened their campaign with contrasting victories in the hockey competition of the Commonwealth Games on Friday.
Pre-tournament favourites Australia humbled Scotland 5-1 after leading 3-1 at half-time, while England pipped New Zealand 4-3.
The winners led 2-1 at the breather.
Another medal contender, South Africa trounced Trinidad and Tabago 6-1.
In a fast-paced encounter, Australia dominated the proceedings but could not convert all their chances into goals, otherwise the margin of victory would have been higher.
Scotland played well within their limits and were even able to reduce the margin.
For Australia, the goal scorers were Wells Mathew, Dean Butler, Luke Doerner, Travis Brooks and Brent Livermore (one each), while Niall Stott reduced the margin for Scotland.
In an exciting encounter, England downed New Zealand 4-3 to earn full points.
Simon Mantell, Barry Middleton, Richard Alexander and Mathew Daly scored for the winners, while Bevan Hayden, Shaw and Hopping Blair scored for the losers.
South Safrica made short work of Trindad and Tabago 6-1 after taking 5-0 lead at the lemon break.
John Paul, Wayne Madsen, Ian Symons, Leroy Philips, Justin Ross Reid and Lungile Tsolekile scored for South Africa while Dwain Chan Quan was the lone goal-getter for the losers.
In the women section, Australia, who had beaten defending champions India 4-2 yesterday, pounded Malaysia 8-0 on Friday night.
New Zealand blanked Barbados 11-0 while South Africa beat Nigeria 4-1.