Kuantan (23 Oct, 2016): The Malaysian juggernaut continued in the QNET 4th Asian Champions Trophy with a 7-2 victory over Japan and advanced to the semi-finals at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium in Kuantan today.
The Malaysia Tigers scripted a great show against the Japanese in front of an estimated 2,500 fans with field goals from Nik Aiman Rosemi (23rd), Rashid Baharom (27th), Nabil Fiqri Mohamad Nor (33rd), Faizal Shaari (37th) and Firhan Ashari in the 44th minute.
Fitri Shari made it a memorable evening for the fans by netting the sixth goal and Faizal Shaari returned to score his second and Malaysia’s seventh after the interval from a penalty stroke, adding on to goalkeeper Masahito Kunitomo and Japan’s misery.
Japan replied through Kenji Kitazato (59th) and Kenta Tanaka in the last few seconds before the hooter.
The Malaysians had earlier dented Pakistan’s hopes with a 4-2 win in Thursday’s opening match and downed China 5-1 to top the table standings with nine points followed by India (7), Pakistan (3), China (3) and Korea (1). Japan is reeling at the bottom of the six-nation event without a win.
Malaysia plays high-riding India on Wednesday before wrapping up the round-robin league fixtures on Oct 27 against the Koreans.
“It was a very good match. We started off cautiously and then got our act moving to win 7-2 and get nine points in total. Mathematically we have nine points and are almost there in the semi-finals,” said Van Huizen.
The last time Malaysia played Japan was in a four-match test series in Kakamigahara in June, losing three matches and drew in one.
However, Stephen van Huizen’s Malaysia Tigers are back at full strength in Kuantan unlike in Kakamigahara where seven regulars could not make the trip. The seven who did not go to Kakamigahara but available in Kuantan are goalkeeper S. Kumar, Faiz Helmi, Shahril Saabah, Fitri Shaari, Faizal Shaari drag-flick specialist Mohammad Razie Rahim and Nabil Fiqri.
The Japanese too have been without four key players who were instrumental in Kakamigahara but have since retired.
Prior to the start of the India-Pakistan match, Australian umpire Murray Grime was honoured for umpiring his 200th senior international game. Asian Hockey Federation Chief Executive Officer, Dato’ Tayyab Ikram, and the Umpires Manager of the QNET Men’s Asian Champions Trophy, Ged Curran presented award.
In an earlier match, India defeated arch rivals Pakistan 3-2 in a high-profile clash to move into the semi-finals. It was India’s second win over Pakistan this year following a 5-1 triumph in the 25th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh,
It was India’s 54th victory over Pakistan in this 165th clash between the two nations in hockey since the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Pakistan has won 82 times and drew in 30 other encounters.
Youngster Pardeep Mor gave India a 1-0 lead in a mouth-watering encounter with another display of top flight hockey between the Asian powerhouses, who are known for their flair and skill with the flick.
The Pakistan defence failed to mark Pardeep on the far right corner of the semi-circle as the Indian midfielder lashed on a powerful shot across the line, splitting the defence which also caught goalkeeper Imran Butt off guard and a late reaction.
Two-time champions Pakistan had earlier made a strong start by earning a penalty corner in the very first minute but Indian goalkeeper Sreejesh Parattu parried away Muhammad Aleem Bilal’s rising flick much to the joy of an estimated 200 expatriate Indian community in the stadium.
Minutes later Talwinder found space near the Pakistan goalmouth but his shot went inches over the bar.
But the Pakistanis came back at full force and equalised through Muhammad Rizwan Sr into the third quarter with a powerful shot from the top of the semi-circle, leaving Sreejesh completely beaten and Muhammad Irfan Jr made it 2-1 the first time as more than 100 Pakistan-flag waving fans celebrated.
But the celebrations in the stands slowly withered away as India pushed to the front with goals from Rupinder Pal Singh in the 43rd minute via penalty corner to draw level 2-2 and a minute later Ramandeep Singh sealed it for India from an incredible field goal. Pakistan forwards did everything they could in search of the equaliser in the fourth quarter but as fate had its day, India triumphed 3-2.
“Putting the result aside, it was good vintage hockey from India and Pakistan, good for the fans at the stadium and those back home. We controlled the first half but were very unfortunate not to score as the match progressed.” said Pakistan head coach, Muhammad Khawaja Junaid.
“Pakistan will come out of this and God willing progress into the semi-finals as we must win Japan and China,” he added.
India’s head coach Roelant Oltmans, observed: “It was a great game too today. The defence made mistakes in the second quarter and Pakistan saw this and capitalised. Overall, I believe we can play a far better game and increase our level.”
India defeated Japan 10-2 and drew 1-1 against Korea in earlier matches. Pakistan, on the other hand, lost their first match 2-4 against Malaysia and defeated South Korea 1-0 in their second game.
Both teams have been successful in the past Asian Champions Trophy editions, which is being played for the first time after 2013. India won the inaugural 2011 edition of the tournament while Pakistan emerged champions in 2012 and 2013 editions.
Results: India 3 Pakistan 2; Malaysia 7 Japan 2.
Monday (24 Oct, 2016): Korea v China (6.30pm).