Malaysia go top of the table with a 4-3 win over Japan in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament in Ipoh.
Malaysia made heavy weather of the game in the last quarter, squandering a comfortable 4-1 lead before holding on to a slim 4-3 win. It was their first win in the tournament, after having drawn with defending champions New Zealand in their opening match.
Japan has not beaten Malaysia since the 1973 World Cup and the trend continues with the results today.
“We started off well and managed to get four goals early. But the finish was poor especially in the last five minutes,” admitted Malaysian coach Stephen van Huizen.
“It is dangerous to allow a team to come back when you have a good cushion. You need to finish off the moves and not allow mistake to creep in. I am happy with their play and I hope they learn from it. We need to be more confident with our moves and when you have a lead you also have to try and defend it. there was no reason to go for a fifth goal. We should let them come at us,” he added
Malaysia started off confidently and forced a penalty corner in the second minute of the game. Skipper Razie Rahim send the ball straight to the Japanese keeper but the ball gets through the Japanese keepers pad and into goal.
The lead, however, lasted just for one minute. Within seconds, Japan forced a penalty corner of their own. It was a brilliantly executed penalty corner. Skipper Hiroki Sakamoto who pushed the ball to drag specialist Kenji Kitazato, waited for the pass from the latter to easily sweep the ball into goal.
Malaysia looked the more composed side , although the speedy Japanese side was being equaly dangerous in quick counter attacks.
In the 11th minute, Malaysia were awarded their second penalty corner and once again it was the power in Razie Rahim that prevailed. He sounded the board with his well-placed shot.
Three minutes later, Malaysia were awarded yet another penalty corner. Razie is once again entrusted with the job and this time his shot is parried away by keeper Takashi Yoshikawa.
Haziq Shamsul was quick to tap in the rebound to put Malaysia 3-1 ahead.
Malaysia dominated the second quarter but could not translate their possession to increase their lead.
In the 32nd minute, Malaysia were awarded a penalty stroke after Izad Jamaluddin’s deflection into goal, from their fifth penalty corner attempt hits the head of Japan’s Seren Tanaka.
Fitri Saari send the Japanese keeper diving the wrong way to increase Malaysia’s lead to 4-1
Malaysia should have increased their lead but their own inability inside the D and the quick reaction from Takashi Sakamoto denied them in more than one occasion.
However, it was Japan who sound the board in the 54th minute from a penalty corner conversion. Shota Yamada scooped the ball pass the Hafizuddin to reduce the deficit.
Malaysia’s lack of concentration showed as Japan pulled another goal back in the final minute of the game.
With just 56 seconds on the clock, Japan force a penalty corner and make the conversion through another Shota Yamada effort.