KUANTAN (29 APRIL 2014): Malaysia produced an exciting performance after four days of action in the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 to beat Canada 4-3 at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium tonight.
Malaysia went into the last of the Group B preliminary round match with a herculean task of having to beat Canada by a three-goal difference.
Team captain Azlan Misron and his band of ‘fighting soldiers’ had a mission and that was to avoid finishing at the base, at any cost, stay one rung above France in the table standings as the French have just three points to show while the Malaysians were still searching for their first win.
Anything short of this target would pit the Malaysians against tournament favourites New Zealand in Thursday’s quarterfinals after South Korea did the hosts a big favour by edging France 3-2 earlier in the day. The Koreans had already topped Group B with seven points, followed by Canada with four points.
Though the Malaysians, ranked World No 13, failed to get the desired result of a three-goal difference victory over the Canadians and now face the daunting task of meeting New Zealand in the quarterfinals (2.45pm) it was nevertheless a night to remember.
In other quarterfinals matches, Korea play Japan, Canada take on Poland, and Ireland entertain France.
Their commitment, fighting spirit and bravery spoke for itself. The Malaysians played their hearts out and truly deserve lots of accolades.
Canada picked off pace with a strong display of speed and cohesion. Within the first minute of play they had camped inside the Malaysian semicircle, got their act right and were rewarded with a penalty flick. Captain Scott Tupper sealed it with a powerful shot past goalkeeper S.Kumar much to the dismay of the estimated 3,000 Malaysian fans.
But the Malaysians were quick to transform their own game and upped the tempo four minutes later to equalise. This time through the ever-reliable Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin who let fly a powerful flick into the top of the Canadian net, leaving no room for goalkeeper Antoni Kindler of saving it.
The fans erupted into jubilation once again when Shahril Saabah put Malaysia 2-1 ahead with a drag-flick goal from a penalty corner in the 19th minute. The celebrations, however, did not last long as Canada clawed back into the game in search for the equaliser through Gabriel Ho-Garcia from an open goal. The score stood 2-2 at the interval.
The Malaysians never lost faith despite the Canadian equaliser and Shahril was once again the toast of the fans which included the support-group ‘Elephant Army’ when he packed the ball into goal five minutes after play resumed to give the hosts a 3-2 lead for the first time.
Canada created several more chances after this and were back in the groove with another polished performance, penetrating through a shaky defence with ease. They got their second penalty stroke in the 54th minute and Tupper made it count once again to draw level 3-3.
But Dharmaraj’s Malaysia was not to be outdone and outshined. Tengku Ahmad struck again a minute later to give his side a 4-3 lead, giving hope of their first win in the tournament but arguably still not enough to see them avoid meeting New Zealand in the quarterfinals.
Released by Shekhinah PR on behalf of Malaysian Hockey Confederation.
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