AAG: India start favourites |
October 28, 2003
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Malaysian defence worries captain Dilip Tirkey
Hyderabad: After an exciting win over arch-rivals Pakistan, India have focussed their eyes on the men?s hockey semi-final clash with Malaysia, a match that the hosts are expected to win with ease on Wednesday.
The top-place finish in the group might have helped India avoid the nippy South Koreans in the last four stage, but captain Dilip Tirkey maintained there was no room for taking Wednesday?s match lightly and warned his team against the rivals? strength in defence and ball control.
?It would not have made really any difference whether we play against South Korea or Malaysia. Our main target is to win,? Tirkey said. ?The Malaysians are a good side and they are playing well at the moment. We have to play well to beat them,? he said dismissing suggestions that it would be cakewalk for India in the semi-finals.
The second semi-final between Pakistan and South Korea promises to be a high-voltage clash and offer value for money as the two Asian champions would leave no stone unturned to book a berth in the final.
India, who had a rather unimpressive start on Monday, raised their game by a few notches in the second half as they came from behind for a 4-2 win against Pakistan. Tirkey is expecting the semi-final match to be a battle between Indian forwards and Malaysian defenders, who have been impressive in the tournament so far. ?Defence is their forte whereas our forwards are in fine nick. So it would be a test of character for our attack and their defence,? he said.
For the Malaysians, their defence played a key role in the side?s qualification to the knock out stage. In the crucial match against Korea on Monday, which they lost 1-2, the Malaysian defenders came up with many good saves to take the side to the semi-finals at the expense of South Africa.
For India, though all played their part to perfection against Pakistan, it were the forwards who hogged the limelight in the home side?s earlier matches ? against Egypt and Nigeria ? with some great work.
The only striker to miss out in the party against the two African nations ? Gagan Ajit Singh ? signalled his return to scoring form by slamming home two goals on Monday, which must have given the Indian camp some relief. Though past records favour India, it were the Malaysians who won the last encounter between the two sides held in Australia last year. Malaysia shocked India 3-2 in the second leg of a four-nation tournament in Melbourne in June.
But barring the odd wins here and there, the Malaysians do not have many records to show against India as the hosts have won 57 out of 77 matches played between the two sides so far while their opponents remained victorious in 12. Eight matches between the two sides have ended in draw.
Women in final
A determined India came up with a brilliant allround performance on Tuesday to beat the mighty Koreans 3-0 to set a title clash against South Africa in the women?s hockey event.
Surinder Kaur opened the scoreline in the 35th minute and within four minutes, Sanggai Chanu extended the lead. Then, a minute from the final whistle, Jyoti Sunita Kullu rounded off the tally for the hosts.
However, it was goalkeeper Helen Innocent?s brilliant show under the bar coupled with some sublime effort from forwards that helped India demolish their powerful opponents.
The Koreans, who started the favourites, squandered not only a penalty stroke but also 11 short corners.
With the win, the hosts also took revenge of their loss to the same rivals in the Asian Games in Busan last year. That defeat had then knocked India out of the competition.
In Thursday?s final, India will meet South Africa, who beat China 4-0 in the first semi-final earlier in the day. Leading 1-0 at the half-time, the South Africans pumped in three goals in a space of 10 minutes to dashed the World Cup winners? hopes, who had come to the tournament as one of the title contenders. Susan slammed home in the 43rd and 53rd minutes after Pietie Coetzee gave South Africa the lead in the third minute. Kerry Bee scored the other goal in the 44th minute.
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