India lose to Argentina in Azlan Shah final

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Argentina beat India 2-1 in the final of the Azlan Shah Cup in hockey with a golden goal in Ipoh, Malaysia.

Updated: December 31, 2008 07:50 IST
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Mario Almada struck a golden goal as a spirited India suffered a narrow 1-2 defeat to Argentina in the final of the Azlan Shah hockey tournament on Sunday.

Sandeep Singh's 10th minute penalty corner conversion put India ahead in the title clash, but veteran Almada led Argentina's fightback and scored a brace (14th, 73rd) to help his side clinch the championship.

India will take the silver medal with pride as they showcased a brilliant turnaround in the tournament and won four matches in a row after two defeats to book a berth in the final after a huge gap of 12 years.

The title clash had all the components of a final match as the keenly-contested and ill-tempered encounter went down to the wire before being decided through Almada's golden goal in the extra-time.

From the beginning, both the wingers of Argentina worked overtime to give some jittery moments to the Indian defenders. But Diwakar Ram and Sandeep Singh warded off the initial inroads and goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza came out with some scintillating saves to deny their rivals any early advantage.

In the fourth minute, when umpire Ged Curran of Scotland awarded a penalty corner to Argentina after Adrian made a diving ground clearance, the enraged Indians advanced menacingly towards him. Durran talked to his colleague Amarjit Singh, but at the end preferred to stick to his decision.

Ignacio Gilardi took the shot, but Adrian saved it with his characteristic calmness.

Shivendra Singh and S V Sunil staged a counterattack in the 10th minute and when they were brought down near the circle, Amrajit signalled India's first penalty corner.

Sandeep Singh put it across Argentinian goalkeeper and captain Manuel Vivaldi without much trouble to open the account for India and score his ninth goal of the tournament.

But, India could not hold on to the lead for long. Four minutes later, hard working right winger Tomas Argento sent in a cross and veteran Mario Almada netted the equaliser for Argentina.

A few minutes before the break, Argentina came close to take the lead when defender Gilardi's freehit was tapped by Facundo, but the Indian defence rose to the occasion and thwarted his attempt.

But players of both the teams got into a scuffle in the melee forcing the umpires to halt the match for six minutes.

The second half was relatively incident free with both the sides exercising a degree of caution. Though the Pan Americans were better in terms of attacks, Indians also made some inroads.

Argentina got an easy penalty corner five minutes before the hooter, but Gilardi's flick narrowly missed the target.

In the second half, India got two short corners in 42nd and 53rd minutes, but Sandeep could not bring cheers to capacity crowd that supported his team.

As the scores remained tied at 1-1 after the regulation time, the match went into extra-time where Almada shot home the golden goal to seal the issue in Argentina's favour.

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