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Malaysia squandered a 2-0 lead and allowed India to walk away with a 4-2 win in their opening match in the Sultan of Johor Cup Under-21 Invitational hockey match at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium in Johor Bahru on Saturday.
Malaysian coach Nor Saiful Nasiruddin aptly summed it up Malaysia’s disappointing start defeat in the ninth edition of the six-nation tournament when he said at the post-match press conference: “Our players lack experience in winning international matches.
“We grabbed a 2-0 lead and then missed several other chances that came our away. That is the sad side of our hockey.” 
For the record, Malaysia was the inaugural winner of the tournament in 2011. Last year, Malaysia finished fifth after defeating New Zealand 6-3 in the playoff.
A delighted India coach B.J. Kariappa said: “We made some structural and tactical changes after going down in the first 10 minutes and it worked. Skipper Mandeep Mor played his role well and we got back into the picture.”
Malaysia made a smashing start to the match to take the lead through Mohd Syafiq Hassan with a deflected goal eight minutes into the game. A minute later Malaysia struck again much to the delight of the home fans.
This time Mohd Ariffin Zainuddin sounded the board off a penalty corner but that was as far as the Malaysians could go as India made some tactical changes to check the slide.
A 19th-minute goal put India back into the picture when Rahul Rajhbar converted a stroke to reduce the deficit. It was 2-2 by the 33rd minute when Pratap Lakra scored from a penalty corner.
India went into overdrive after this and confidently took charge of the match with Shilanand Lakra getting India’s third goal from a penalty corner on 39 minutes and Uttam Singh finalized the score with a last-minute goal.
In earlier matches, Australia struggled to a 2-1 win over Japan with a brace by Ehren Hazel in the third and 33rd minutes. Japan’s goal was scored by Takuma Niwa (15th).
Defending champions Great Britain also won their opening match with a 2-0 win over New Zealand. The first goal came via Thomas Russel in the 34th minute before James Oates increased the tally in the 58th minute. – BY RIZAL ABDULLAH
Australia   2     Japan   1
Great Britain   2    New Zealand    0
India   4     Malaysia     2
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