Ace drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh continued to stamp his authority in the ongoing 4th Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament as he converted two penalty corners to clinch India a 2-1 victory over hosts Malaysia on Wednesday.
Opening the scoring in the 12th minute, Rupinder then saw Malaysia equalise through Razie Rahim's drag flick in the 18th minute, but got into the goal-scoring act again two minutes from the end to clinch India a win in the crucial outing and top the league standings.
India survived some anxious moments as hosts Malaysia posed a serious challenge and had their citadel under pressure in the second half and even got a penalty corner in the dying seconds, but the defenders held their ground.
Rounding off their five outings with four wins and a draw, India topped the round-robin league standings with 13 points and now await the results of the last couple of games on Thursday to find out who they play in semi-final.
Malaysia, with nine points from four matches, take on South Korea, while defending champions Pakistan play China.
Indian captain PR Sreejesh was rested for another game to help recovery from his foot injury, giving the chance to reserve goalkeeper Akash Chikte to play this important match. Chikte justified the faith reposed in him and brought off some fine saves.
Rupinder put India into the lead in the 12th minute off their second penalty corner, when he slammed the rebound into the net from close range.
Malaysia's efforts paid off soon as quick counter-attacks earned them the first penalty corner in the 18th minute and Razie Rahim produced the equaliser with a stinging shot that went shoulder high into the net.
The Indian goalkeeper came into the picture more in the second half and pulled off two fine saves. India had to play the last 10 minutes with 10 players after Surender Kumar was sent off.
Malaysia's brisk attacks were posing danger to the rival citadel when India earned their fourth penalty corner that Rupinder converted with a rasping drag-flick into the roof of the cage.