India produced an inspiring performance to outplay host Malaysia 6-1 in a must-win match, and secure its seventh appearance in the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament, in Ipoh on Friday.
Needing a victory in its last round-robin league fixture to qualify for Saturdayâs title clash, five-time winner India stamped its authority on the host to finish ahead of defending champion New Zealand in the standings.
Indiaâs opponent in the title encounter will be World champion Australia, which prevailed 3-0 over Canada to complete an all-win record in the preliminary league.
S.V. Sunil (2nd minute), Harjeet Singh (7th), Ramandeep Singh (25th and 39th), Danish Mujtaba (27th) and Talwinder Singh (50th) scored for India, while Shahril Saabah (46th) scored a consolation goal for Malaysia.
Starting on a brisk note, India had four scoring opportunities in the initial five minutes of the game but managed to capitalise on just one through Sunil in the second minute. Collecting the ball from Manpreet Singh, Sunil dribbled in parallel to the goal-line before sending the cross that left goalkeeper Hairi Rahman stranded.
India could have scored again in the next minute when Ramandeep had the ball in the circle but he sent a shot without direction despite being aware that Sunil was way behind.
Chinglensana Singhâs reverse shot went wide off the right post before Harjeet Singh capitalised on a defensive lapse to send a stinging reverse drive into the boards for the second goal.
Malaysian skipper striker Ramadan Rosli was sent off with a yellow card booking when he blocked striker Ramandeep from breaking away on the 25-yard line and India scored twice off penalty corners during his absence.
Indiaâs third goal came during penalty corner action in the 25th minute when the push was not stopped, but Mujtaba held on to the ball and pushed the ball into the goalmouth. Malaysiaâs goalkeeper stopped the ball with his pads but it fell in front of Ramandeep who capitalised on the rebound for his first goal.
Two minutes later, Rupinder Pal Singhâs rasping penalty corner shot rebounded into play off the crossbar and this time Mujtaba sent the ball back into the net.
Ramandeep had his second entry in the scoresheet in the 39th minute by deflecting in Harmanpreet Singhâs long diagonal ball from right.
Malaysia pulled a goal back in the 46th minute as Shahril deflected a long ball from Razie into the boards.
Talwinder rounded off the Indian scoring by slamming in a rebound from the goalkeeper who had managed to block a long shot.