India in Azlan Shah final after 12 years

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> India beat Malaysia 2-1 in a tight finish to reach the final of the Azlan Shah hockey tournament for the first time in 12 years.

Updated: May 20, 2008 12:56 IST
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Ipoh (Malaysia):

India pulled off a narrow 2-1 win in their last round robin match against hosts Malaysia to book a berth in the final of the Azlan Shah hockey tournament here on Saturday.

First half goals by Shivendra Singh (9th) and Sandeep Singh (10th) put India in the driver's seat in the crucial match and they maintained the lead till the last minute before Mohammad Amin Rahim shot home a consolation goal for Malaysia.

With this win, India gathered 12 points from their six matches and set up a title clash against Argentina, who have finished with 14 points, on Sunday.

India, who lost their first two matches, continued with their impressive turnaround in the tournament to register their fourth consecutive victory and make the Azlan Shah final after a gap of 12 years.

India tried to keep the Malaysians under control in Saturday's game and in the initial minutes Sunil had a golden chance to score the first goal when he took the ball with a solo run and had a shy at the Malaysian post without succeeding in beating home goalkeeper Subramanian.

Then it was the run of Indian keeper Adrian D'Souza, who continued with his good showing against Pakistan and single-handedly blocked three back-to-back attempts by the Malaysian strikers.

India got into lead in the 9th minute when a Sandeep Singh slapshot from outside the Malaysian circle was deflected in by Shivendra Singh.

The spirited Indian forwards initiated a few more moves, one of which resulted in two consecutive penalty corners in the 10th minute. The Malaysians warded off the two threats but conceded a penalty stroke off the second short corner.

Sandeep Singh fooled the Malaysian custodian without much trouble to give his team a 2-0 lead.

The hosts came closer to open their account when a defensive lapse allowed Ismail Abu to take the inside the circle and shoot at the Indian post with only Adrian to beat.

But the Malaysian hit it wide to spoil the chance. Adrian was again in the thick of action when a good clearance from him prevented Seva Raju's attempt off a nice move.

The game became a drab affair with players from both sides getting involved in some mundane action in the last 15 minutes of the first session.

After the break, Indian strikers showed some agility and created a few opportunities. Sunil hogged limelight with a gem of a move as he dribbled past some Malaysian defenders with skillful stick-work and tried score through a reverse hit. But the ever alert Subramanian stood like a wall to avoid any further damage.

Very soon India won two more penalty corners, but could not extend their lead because of their poor execution.

The home team stepped up their attack and earned two more short corners, but their efforts went in vain due to the impregnable Adrian.

The Malaysians stepped on the accelerator in the closing minutes to give some nervy moments for the Indians.

They got a penalty corner a few seconds before the hooter and Mohammad Amin Rahim at last put it past Adrian to score the consolation goal.

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