Defending champions India suffered another heartbreak in the penalty shootout as they lost to Malaysia in the Asian Games semi-final in Jakarta on Thursday.
SV Sunil missed the 10th attempt after both teams were locked 2-2 after regulation time and were inseparable after nine shots in the shootout. The 29-year-old could not find a clear path to take a shot and though the ball came back to him on the rebound, his wild swing went wide to kick off celebrations in the Malaysian camp.
Earlier, the Indians, who had also lost the Champions League final against Australia in a shootout, were guilty of being too flat in such an important encounter and paid the price by allowing the Malaysians to stage a comeback twice, the second with just over a minute left on the clock.
India had come into the encounter as runaway favourites, having scored 76 goals in the group stage, but were guilty of losing possession rather too easily and could never control the tempo of the match against the Malaysians, who resorted to man-to-man marking and pacey counter attacks.
In what was the most riveting encounter for India this Asian Games, India took the lead through penalty corner specialist Harmanpreet Singh in the 33rd minute only for the Malaysians to find an equaliser six minutes later through Faizal Sari.
India needed just a minute to regain the lead with Varun Kumar converting an indirect penalty corner. It looked like India would hang on to the lead despite the mounting pressure from the Malaysians as they survived a five minute period where Sardar Singh and Surendra Kumar were given a yellow card.
But the Malaysians were relentless on the counter and earned a penalty corner with one and half minute left for the final hooter and Muhammad Razie made no mistake in converting the chance to force a shootout.
In the shootout, Indian custodian PR Sreejesh and Malaysia’s Kumar Subramiam managed to save three of the five attempts and then both teams converted the next four attempts. With Tajuddin Tengku Ahmad converting the next, Sunil had to score to keep India alive. But he failed and there ended India’s hopes of retaining the gold medal they won four years ago and also earning a direct berth for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.