HOST Malaysia endured a tough 1-3 defeat against defending champions India in a must-win Sultan of Johor Cup 2023 match at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium on Saturday.

The second consecutive defeat by the spirited young tigers means coach Amin Rahim’s boys, who won the inaugural tournament title in 2011, have failed to secure a place in the semifinals. Malaysia have yet to earn a point following an earlier 2-3 defeat against New Zealand and now India.

“We were expecting a tough match. And I am very happy with the commitment shown by the players. Several players are nursing injuries but credit to the players as they fought hard in search for goals. I think we gave India a good tough match. It was just unfortunate that we could not score from the many opportunities we had. It was an open game,” said Amin.

The Malaysians were aggressive in the first quarter as the Indians found it difficult to restrict their opponents. Forward Shahmie Irfan Suhaimi broke the deadlock and gave the more than 3,000 fans hope and confidence when he successfully scored from a penalty corner in the 13th minute.

The three-time SOJC champions and reigning Junior Asia Cup winner India had their back against the wall. The early lead against the World No 3 side did not come as a surprise to the fans as they had expected the young tigers to roar back after Friday’s close 2-3 defeat against the Kiwis.

The Indians, on the opposite end, were confident in knocking down the host early with forward Angard Bir Singh and Lalage Aditya Arjun assigned to do collateral damage. But their plan was foiled by goalkeeper Muhamad Rafaizul’s splendid performance throughout the match.

However, the jubilation in the Malaysian camp was short-lived. It did not take long for India to come firing on all cylinders for the equalizer. They showcased their organized game with great composure to turn the tables on the young tigers after several failed attempts in the first quarter.

They got into their grove as the match progressed. Lalage Aditya Arjun scored from a field goal in the 28th minute to level score 1-1 and Lakra Amandeep was spot on in the 37th minute penalty corner conversion while Rohit further added salt into wound by netting the third goal from a penalty corner rebound.

But the Malaysians did not sit back after the two-goal setback. They continued to test the Indian defensive machinery and managed to make several breakthroughs only to be led down by their own folly.