India entered the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament after a gap of 12 years as they beat Malaysia 2-1 in their final league match in Ipoh, Malaysia on Saturday.
First half goals by Shivendra Singh (9th) and Sandeep Singh (10th) put India in the driver's seat in the crucial match and they maintained the lead till the last minute before Mohammad Amin Rahim shot home a consolation goal for Malaysia.
The young Indian team recorded their fourth successive win in the tournament, earning 12 points from six matches and edge out Pakistan (10 points) for the final berth. Victory against Malaysia was essential as a draw would've seen Pakistan through on a better goal difference.
India, who finished third at Azlan Shah in the previous two editions, will take on Argentina in the final on Sunday.
They had lost 1-5 to the South Americans in the league encounter.
India tried to keep the Malaysians under control in the game and in the initial minutes Sunil had a golden chance to score the first goal when he took the ball with a solo run and had a shy at the Malaysian post. But he failed to beat home goalkeeper Subramanian.
Indian goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza continued with his good showing as he single-handedly blocked three back-to-back attempts by the Malaysian strikers.
India got into lead in the 9th minute when a Sandeep Singh slapshot from outside the Malaysian circle was deflected in by Shivendra Singh.
The spirited Indian forwards initiated a few more moves, one of which resulted in two consecutive penalty corners in the 10th minute. The Malaysians warded off the two threats but conceded a penalty stroke off the second short corner.
Sandeep Singh tapped it in to give his team a 2-0 lead.
The game became a drab affair with players from both sides getting involved in some mundane action in the last 15 minutes of the first session.
After the break, Indian strikers showed some agility and created a few opportunities.
Very soon India won two more penalty corners, but could not extend their lead because of their poor execution.
The home team stepped up their attack and earned two more short corners, but their efforts went in vain due to the impregnable Adrian.
The Malaysians stepped on the accelerator in the closing minutes to give some nervy moments for the Indians.
They got a penalty corner a few seconds before the hooter and Mohammad Amin Rahim at last put it past Adrian to score the consolation goal.