India eves beat Malaysia to enter Asia Cup hockey semis

Kuala Lumpur, Sep 24 (IANS) India put on a clinical show when it mattered the most and sailed into the semi-finals of the 8th Women's Asia Cup hockey with a facile 2-0 win over hosts Malaysia at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil Stadium here Tuesday.

After a goalless first half, India turned on the heat in the second half with Poonam Rani (39th minute) and Lily Chanu Mayengbam (46th) sounding the board to secure three crucial points in pool A. With two wins a defeat, India finished second in their group after tournament favourites China.

With the win, India's hopes for a berth in the next year's World Cup at The Hague, Netherland also remained alive. The winner will get a direct entry in the World Cup.

Against the hosts, India were in a must-win situation and they churned out their top game when it matted the most.

The Malaysians did well to hold Indians to a goalless first half. But the Indian came back well in the second half. India broke the deadlock in the 39th minute with Poonam Rani through a field goal.

Mayengbam doubled the lead, also a field goal, in the 46th minute to put India through to the last four as the group runners-up.

Malaysian coach Mohmed Nasihin Nubli said they were not able to sustain their defensive play in the second half.

"They caught us fast with their counter-attack early in the second half. We should have been more alert. But the players did well and it was probably our best game here and now we must remain fifth in Asia," he said.

Meanwhile, China finished on top of Group A after whipping Hong Kong 7-0 for their third win. Liang Meiyu scored a hat-trick (27th, 48th and 51st). The other scorers were Peng Yang (13th), Xu Xiaoxu (37th), Xi Xiayun (42nd) and Wang Na (49th).

In Group B, Japan also booked their berth in the semi-finals with a 12-0 rout of Kazakhstan. Mazuki Arai (third, 40th and 70th), Akane Shibata (second and 19th), Aya Ueda (26th and 59th), Akiko Ota (8th), Miyuri Nagakawa (15th), Mayuri Ono (21st), Shiho Skai (64th) and Aki Matsuhashi (68th).

The Japanese finished runners-up behind unbeaten South Korea with six points. The Koreans completed their group match with a 16-2 win over Taiwan.

In the semi-finals, Japan will play defending champions China while South Korea will take on India.

China and South Korea have booked their World Cup berths through the World Hockey League. Japan and India need to win the title to go through to the showpiece event.

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