Kuala Lumpur (21 January, 2017): Malaysia scored a sensational 2-1 win over World No 15 Italy in sudden-death penalty shootout and in the process joined Ireland in qualifying for the World League Semi-Finals.
K. Dharmaraj’s Tigress had earlier made a grand comeback from a goal down in this Women Hockey World League Round 2 semi-finals encounter to hold the Italians to a 2-2 draw in regulation time while Ireland downed Wales 2-0 in an earlier semi-final tie at the Tun Razak Stadium.
But more importantly the Malaysians, alongside the Irish, booked a spot in the Women Hockey World League Semi-Finals which will be held in Belgium (June 21-July 2) and South Africa (July 8-23).
The Malaysian women have never qualified for the World Cup and the World League Round 2 is Dharmaraj’s first major assignment as head coach since taking over the position in January 2016.
Ireland’s Green Army and Malaysia’s Tigress will meet in the final of the Women Hockey World League Round 2 tomorrow (22 January) while the Italians and Wales will battle for third placing.
The World League Semi-finals is a qualification platform for the 2018 World Cup which will be held at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre within the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.
It was a night to remember for more than 2,000 fans who watched the Tigress, ranked World No 21, produced their best against a world class opposition.
Dharmaraj’s Tigress have been beefed up with the return of midfielder Raja Norsharina Raja Shabuddin, who did not play in the last two matches due to an ankle injury suffered against Ireland on Monday, to face the Italians.
Midfielder Maria Garraffo fired the Italians ahead in the 10th minute from a field goal but this was quickly cancelled by Fazilla Sylvester Silin three minutes later from a penalty corner.
The Italians, undaunted by the equaliser, continued with a barrage of counter attacks at the start of the second quarter and rewarded with a penalty corner in the 18th minute. Agata Wybieralska made no mistake to give the Italians a 2-1 advantage but once again, Malaysia’s Tigress produced a great fight back with a Hanis Nadiah Onn field goal four minutes before the end of the first half.
The second half saw the Malaysians and Italians having a fair share of ball possession and goal opportunities with no results, pushing the game into penalty shootout.
Goalkeeper Farah Ayuni Yahya was the toast of the Tigress as she kept the Italians at bay in the first penalty shootout which left both teams tied 1-1. However, Valentina Braconi, Italy’s most trusted player, missed in the first sudden-death shootout but Fatin Shafika Md Shukri kept her nerves in check, stepped up and gave all Malaysians a night to celebrate
Two goals in two minutes ensured Ireland a 2-0 victory over Wales to advance into Sunday’s final of the Women Hockey World League Round 2.
The Irish had a tough task at hand against the Welsh. As the tournament’s second highest ranked team behind the Italians, the Green Army found themselves pegged down by the Welsh in the first quarter.
The chances, however, build with great intensity in the second half and Yvonne O’Brian broke the deadlock in the 27th minute for Ireland from a penalty corner goal and less than a minute later Anna O’Flanagan doubled the lead with a field goal. It was Anna’s 12th goal in the tournament so far.
The game suddenly took a different outlook as the Green Army went into the breather with a two-goal lead.
The second half saw both sides creating chances but Ireland held the advantage with possession. Irish goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran made a strong save in the final few minutes of the third quarter to keep the marauding Wales forwards at bay an kept a clean record en route to the final.
The Kuala Lumpur edition of the Women Hockey World League Round 2 is the first of three series in qualifying for the World League Semi-finals which will be held in Belgium (June 21-July 2) and South Africa (July 8-23).
This will be followed by the second and third series of the World League in Valencia, Spain (Feb 4-12) and Vancouver, Canada (March 25-April 2, 2017).