Ipoh (Malaysia): India produced an inspiring performance to outplay hosts Malaysia 6-1 in a must-win match and secure their seventh appearance in the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament, here today.
Needing a victory in their last round-robin league fixture to qualify for tomorrow's title clash, five-time winners India stamped their authority on the hosts to finish ahead of defending champions New Zealand in the standings.
India's opponents in the title encounter tomorrow will be reigning world champions Australia, who today prevailed 3-0 over Canada to complete an all-win record in the preliminary league.
Indian team celebrate a goal by Ramandeep Singh (L) against Malaysia during their match of the 2016 Sultan Azlan Shah men's field hockey tournament at Azlan Shah stadium in Malaysia's northern town of Ipoh on Friday. Pic/AFP
Australia finished with the maximum 18 points from six outings, followed by India on 12 points and New Zealand on 11 points.
Australia have won this title a record eight times and were losing finalists to the Black Sticks last year, when India earned a bronze.
S V Sunil (2nd minute), Harjeet Singh (7th), Ramandeep Singh (25th and 39th), Danish Mujtaba (27th) and Talwinder Singh (50th) scored for India, while Shahril Saabah (46th) scored a consolation goal for Malaysia.
India's last appearance in the final of the Azlan Shah Cup was in 2010, when they shared the title with South Korea after torrential showers flooded the ground.
Watching the India-Malaysia contest from the sideslines were New Zealand, who will now face hosts Malaysia for the bronze medal tomorrow. Malaysia finished fourth after failing to add to their eight points today.
Malaysia needed a seven-goal victory to edge ahead of New Zealand in the standings, but they went out seeking to avenge their loss to India in the Hockey World League Semifinals that cost them qualifications for the Olympic Games.
Malaysia's last victory over India was in last year's Sultan Azlan Shah Cup here, when the home side posted a 3-2 victory in a league match.