SOJC2018: India in line for their third Sultan of Johor Cup title

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Two-time winners India is through to the Sultan of Johor Cup final – their fifth since the Invitational Under-21 hockey tournament was inaugurated in 2011 – after staving off a late fightback from defending champions Australia to prevail 5-4.
 
Unbeaten India now leads the round robin league with an unassailable 12 points with a game in hand. Champions in 2013 and 2014, play Great Britain in their last preliminary round match on Friday.
 
The match against Australia was a thriller as the Indians scored freely for a comfortable 4-0 lead in the first quarter – never looking back after Gurusahibit Singh opened the floodgates with a field attempt after six minutes.
 
Haspreet Singh made it 2-0 for India when he deflected from close range on 14 minutes before skipper Mandeep Mor hammered the third off a penalty corner. The Indians were on fire and a minute later took the tally to 4-0 with a Vishanukant Singh goal.
 
Australia reduced the deficit in the 18th minute and came from a penalty corner through Damon Steffens. Steffens hit his second in the 35th minute.
 
However, Shilanand Lakra hammered the fifth goal for India and a comfortable 5-2 lead at the start of the fourth quarter. A penalty stroke goal by Steffens completed his hattrick.
 
Now India was back peddling as Australia got their fourth goal via a penalty corner but time ran out for the defending champions while India held out for a 5-4 win.
 
“It was a thriller which we managed to get our way. I am proud of the players for the win but the display was a bit disappointing when we gave our style of playing our brand of hockey.
 
“We look forward to the final next week,” said India coach Jude Felix.
 
Australia coach Chris O’Reilly was disappointed with the team’s performance and chasing a four-goal lead was a tough proposition. 
 
“It was a weak first quarter for us and by the time we started scoring, the game was getting out of our reach.”
 
Meanwhile, Malaysia was at the receiving end again – this time a 5-1 thrashing by Great Britain while Japan dropped crucial points with a 2-2 draw against New Zealand.
 
Great Britain and Japan are still within reach of a place in the final with both teams on seven points each.
 
Friday’s matches will decide which team will play India in the final. India will face Great Britain while Japan will take on Malaysia and Australia, on four points will meet New Zealand. – BY RIZAL ABDULLAH
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