Ordos (China): The Indian hockey team continued its unbeaten run by fighting back from a goal down to hold Malaysia 2-2 on Wednesday but is still not assured of a place in the final of the Asian Champions Trophy here.
The scorers for India were Ravi Pal (9th) and Danish Mujtaba (52nd). For Malaysia, the goals were struck by Tajuddin Jalil (24th) and Muhammad Amin Rahim (32nd).
India needed a win to be assured of a place in the final. A win against Malaysia would have given the Indians 10 points and a spot in the final depending on the Korea-Pakistan match to be played later on Wednesday.
India plays Pakistan on Friday in what will be a virtual semi-final for both the teams.
Pakistan and Korea are on six points each. With the draw, Malaysia is out of the reckoning for a place in the final as they are on four points. India are now on eight points with this draw.
India were in attack mode right at the start as Gurwinder Singh Chandi made his customary run into the Malaysian circle but the first few appeals for penalty corners were not given by the umpire.
A similar attack between Chandi, Mujtaba and Sunil also resulted in a melee but the penalty corner did not come India`s way.
India, however, got the goal in the ninth minute when Sunil shot into the circle and it went off the Malaysian goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin`s pads. Ravi Pal picked up the high rebound and whacked it into goal. Malaysia started dominating the midfield after that, pushing the Indians back. Even the forwards fell back to defending as Malaysia rode on a wave of attacks into the Indian half.
They earned three penalty corners and finally got the equaliser off the third when Tajuddin Jalil deflected in the flick past the Indian goalkeeper Sreejes in the 25th minute.
India had a penalty corner but yet again couldn`t trap the ball cleanly, the culprit this time being Ignace Tirkey.
India did come close a couple of times when the tries of Sunil and Walmiki were saved by Roslan in the Malaysian goal. In the 32nd minute, Malaysia took the lead off an awful Indian error. A free ball inside the Indian striking circle with no Malaysian in sight, Sreejes came out charging and kicked the ball against an Indian defender`s leg as the umpire pointed for Malaysia`s fourth penalty corner.
Muhammad Amin scored off a direct flick. The Indians were now rattled as the errors mounted with the defenders and midfielders unable to clear or pass the ball properly.
At the break, Malaysia led 2-1. The second half was a frentic battle for supremacy. Gone was the five forward formula for both the teams as they battled it out for ball possession.
Malaysia had the edge and they won four consecutive penalty corners after resumption but couldn`t score of any. Off their eighth penalty corner, Sreejes brought off a brilliant save deflecting the ball away to the touch line. In the 43rd minute, India earned their third penalty corner against the run of play but Rupinder Pal Singh failed to flick the ball.
India`s bad run on the penalty corners continued. Struggling against the man-to-man marking of the Malaysians, India finally managed to break their hold in the 53rd minute when Gurbaz moved down the right flank and centered brilliantly as a diving Danish Mujtaba sent the ball into the goal for the equaliser.
The equaliser sparked of a search for the match-winner from both the teams. Malaysia did hold the edge as they moved much more fluently then the Indians.
The fluency that India displayed against the Koreans wasn`t there. Probably playing two matches within the space of 20 hours had taken its toll.
In the dying minutes, India earned their fourth penalty corner but Rupinder Pal Singh shot straight towards Roslan in the Malaysian goal.
A few more sharp chances came India`s way but the Malaysian defence did well to clear them. Malaysia almost scored in the 68th minute when Tajuddin found himself inside the striking circle with only Sreejes in front but fumbled as Raghunath cleared the ball away.
Tension mounted as India launched their last attack with 15 seconds to go but Gurbaz and then Sunil couldn`t finish off the move as the hooter went.