The Indian junior men’s hockey team rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat hosts Malaysia 4-2 in its opening match of the 9th Sultan of Johor Cup on Saturday. Pratap Lakra (19th and 33rd) struck twice while Shilanand Lakra (39th) and Uttam Singh (60th) scored the other goals for India.
Muhammad Hassan (8th) and Muhammad Zainudin (9th) were the goal-scorers for Malaysia. Malaysia started the first quarter in an aggressive note with Muhammad Hassan and Muhammad Zainudin finding the back of the net in the eighth and ninth minutes respectively. Hassan put Malaysia ahead with a field goal before Zainudin converted a penalty corner to take a 2-0 lead.
The Indian team tried to make a few inroads, but the Malaysian defence stood strong. India and Malaysia were on equal terms for the rest of the quarter.
India got off to a great start in the second quarter and earned a penalty corner but failed to score from it. A few minutes later, India pulled one back through a penalty stroke by Pratap Lakra.
India continued to be the more aggressive side and kept looking for openings. The team’s persistence paid dividends when it earned a penalty corner just before the half-time whistle.
However, the Malaysian defensive unit stood firm once again. Malaysia led 2-1 at the end of the first half. India rode on the momentum and levelled the match at the start of the third quarter with Pratap Lakra converting a penalty corner.
India continued to put pressure on the Malaysian defence and earned the lead for the first time in the match through a penalty corner conversion by Shilanand Lakra in the 39th minute.
The Indian team continued to be the dominant side as it led 3-2 at the end of the third quarter.
India remained on the attack in the fourth quarter as well, but the Malaysian defence managed to block everything thrown at them. The home side tried to fight back through some crucial moves, but India ensured that they stayed in the lead.
India had an excellent chance to score their fourth goal when they earned a penalty corner in the dying minutes of the match, but could not covert it. However, Uttam Singh scored a brilliant field goal in the last minute of the match to help India walk off the field as 4-2 winners.
India will face New Zealand in their next round-robin league-stage match on Sunday.
(With PTI Inputs)