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Four Nations Tournament | Nikkin Thimmaiah brace hands India win over Malaysia

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© FIH

Four Nations Tournament | Nikkin Thimmaiah brace hands India win over Malaysia

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SportsCafe Desk

11/24/2016

India recovered from their 3-2 loss to Australia by putting four past Malaysia in the Four Nations Invitational Tournament in Melbourne. Nikkin Thimmaiah grabbed a brace and Akashdeep Singh got his first of the campaign, while Rupinder Pal Singh got his customary goal from a penalty corner.

India got off to a good start with Sardar Singh dominating proceedings early on, but it was Talwinder Singh who created the first opening for India with a long run down the left wing. He put the ball into a dangerous area but no other player in blue was backing up into the circle.

With 5 minutes to go in the first quarter, Rupinder's bad pass handed Malaysia their first chance of the match but Akash Chitke, standing in for the injured PR Sreejesh, saved the defender the blushes by pulling off a good save to keep the scores level. Chitke was called into action again and yet another smart save ensured India entered the second quarter on level terms.

India had to wait till the 24th minute to break the deadlock and it came through Nikkin Thimmaiah. The forward scored the goal, but it was all down to the magic of Sardar in the centre of the park that gave India the lead. Sardar collected the ball in the middle of the field and played a brilliant ball between the Malaysian defence to Thimmaiah. The 25-year-old beat his man easily and placed the ball into the net past the Malaysian goalkeeper Kumar Subramaniam. 

At the halfway point, both teams had managed just 2 shots apiece on goal and hadn't conceded a single penalty corner or a card but that was about to change in the second half. Midway through the third quarter, the first card of the day was shown and it was to the Indian captain, Raghunath. 

Malaysia took full advantage of the extra man as they equalized through Faizal Saari on a penalty corner. India opted to go for a funnel formation, but Saari placed the ball to the right of the India goalkeeper Chitke who had no chance of stopping the ball. India created a chance of their own through the brilliant Sardar Singh, and although they did not get the goal they wanted, a penalty corner was awarded to the Asian Champions Trophy winner. 

Sardar pushed the ball on the penalty corner and the PC expert Rupinder Pal Singh put the ball into the top left corner of the goal to give India the lead for the second time in the game. Malaysia were in no mood to give the Indians an easy run as a Ramadan Rosli's reverse flick beat Chitke, but Birendra Lakra cleared the ball off the line to keep India's lead intact. India had a chance to increase their lead, right before the end of the third quarter, through another penalty corner but Rupinder was unable to double his tally for the day.

Malaysia came back strong in the second half, after Satbir and Nikkin missed their chances, to win a couple of penalty corners in a row. The first one was well blocked by Rupinder, but Malaysia got their equalizer from the second one through Shahril Saabah to level things up with just over 12 minutes left on the clock. 

But India were not going to be denied their first win of the tournament as Nikkin ran through at goal beating defenders at the top of the circle before putting the ball past the goalkeeper to hand India a lead. When Akashdeep scored India's fourth in the very next minute, it became clear that the game was up.

With the win, India have boosted their chances of reaching the final of the tournament on Sunday. 

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