Thursday, Oct 30, 2003
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By V.V. Subrahmanyam
The Indian team celebrates after goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan brought off a splendid save in the tie-breaker to help his team reach the final in the Afro-Asian Games hockey competition in Hyderabad on Wednesday. Photo: Vino John
Clearly the onus was on India to match the high expectations and the Malaysians were under pressure. It was pretty clear that the host was on the defensive, often disjointed. The much-celebrated forwardline made a mess of a few simple chances, particularly in the first-half. By now Prabhjot Singh seemed to have earned the exclusive right on the left-flank by the sheer weight of his spectacular performance. As expected, it was he who repeatedly fed Gagan Ajit Singh with some wonderful passes. But rather strangely, the precision in the latter's striking prowess was missing.
In the 20th minute, Prabhjot Singh himself failed to complete the reverse hit from an acute angle off a lovely through pass from Arjun Halappa. But to the credit of Malaysia, it didn't really look perturbed, even earning the first penalty-corner in the 13th minute. Prabhjot produced something special in the 21st minute as he snatched the ball from Md. Amin Ibrahin near the sideline on the left flank and started what turned out to be a spectacular run down the centre. In the nick of the moment he relayed the ball to the waiting Arjun Halappa who made no mistake with a neat hit to give India the 1-0 lead. But even before celebrations in the capacity crowd died down, Malaysia's Chua Boon Huat levelled the scores with a clean penalty-corner hit.
Soon it was the turn of the Malaysian wingers Azlan Misron, Norazlan Rahim and centre-forward Jiwa Mohan to test the Indian defence.
On resumption, Harpal Singh and Bimal Lakra were shown green cards. Sandeep Michael was given the yellow card for rough tackling on Chua Boon Huat in the 49th minute.
Meanwhile, in one of the counter-attacks, Prabhjot Singh once again fed Gagan Ajit Singh with yet another lovely through ball, which the latter scooped over the bar in the 60th minute. With the scores tied one-all at the end of full-time and even the `golden goal' rule failing to produce a result, tie-breaker rule was applied to. For India, Arjun Hallappa, Bimal Lakra, Gagan Ajit Singh, Prabhjot Singh and Kanwalpreet Singh were successful, while K.K. Keevan Raj, captain Shanmugam Kuhan and Md. Amin Ibrahim were on target for Malaysia. But the culprit was one of its best players of the evening - Chua Boon Huat. His hit, the second of the five, was blocked by a diving Devesh Chauhan to his right.
Pakistan in final
Earlier, Pakistan remained unimpressive but continued its march to the final. For, it was yet another lacklustre performance which saw the team record a 2-0 win over Korea in the other semifinal.
It was a story of missed chances for the Koreans. On the other hand, Pakistan capitalised on the third and the last penalty-corner it earned in the match when Ghazanfar Ali's clean direct hit got the team a 1-0 lead in the 33rd minute.
In the 63rd minute Ashraf Zeeshan-Shakeel Abbasi combine produced the second goal.
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